Lockdown loneliness, change in family dynamics, has resulted in increased number of elderly abuse cases being reported.
Bengaluru: The sudden lifestyle change due to the lockdown has left the elderly disoriented and vulnerable. Their growing dependence on family members resulted in resentment towards them, leaving them prone to abuse.
Data from a elderly helpline shows that between May and June 2020 the number of complaints received increased from 14 to 26. A survey conducted in 2014 by the HelpAge India foundation, a charity for the elderly revealed that half of India’s elderly surveyed reported experiencing abuse. Over 75 percent of these lived with their families.
“The number of calls have increased as people couldn’t come to the office and file complaints,” said Ms Sulekha an employee at the Elderly Helpline set up in collaboration with Bangalore police by the Nightingales Medical Trust. She said change in the usual lifestyle of the elderly such as limited or no morning walks may be possible reasons for increase in cases of abuse. “They do not know how to handle change. Before lockdown, the children of the family would leave in the morning, leaving the elderly to their routine, but now they have to adjust, resulting in frustration that eventually finds its way out, sometimes violently,” said Ms Sulekha.
“When the lockdown was in full force, my health did not allow me to go outside and living alone added to my problems,” said Mangala Arkanath, an eighty-year-old woman living in Bangalore. “There were issues getting the grocery, and having basic necessities fulfilled. After a week I had to contact my local MLA Tejasvi Surya to resolve my issues. It’s still difficult to take care of things; my children living in America were constantly worried about my health.”
Elderly abuse has been defined by WHO as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”. Elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.
“They are homebound and they have nobody to speak to, loneliness is the biggest disease,” said Dr.Stanley Macaden, retired Director of Medical Services at Baptist Hospital is a psychiatrist who has worked with elderly patients in palliative care.
. “Anxiety, depression, a constant fear of the future already makes them more vulnerable to abuse Not a lot of people can afford healthcare costs so they prefer staying at home. When finances are limited the goal will be to protect the children and forget the elderly,” he added.