Barbadians are being urged not to tolerate any abuse of older persons, but to do their part in stopping it.

This assertion was given today by Minister of Health, National Insurance and Social Security, Dr. David Estwick, as he delivered the feature address at a one-day seminar on “Elder Abuse: Is It Real in our Institutions”, at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dayrells Road, St. Michael.

Dr. Estwick noted that “abuse of the elderly is unfortunately a reality in today’s societies around the world”. He added that “elders who have been abused tend to die much earlier than those (persons) who are not abused, even in the absence of chronic conditions or life threatening diseases”.

He said that mistreatment can come in many forms – emotional, physical, (either through violence or neglect), or through financial exploitation. And, according to Dr. Estwick, what is even more disturbing is that “in many cases abuse of the elderly goes unreported”.

He warned that this exploitation of the aged “creates potentially dangerous situations and feelings of worthlessness”.

The Minister of Health advised Barbadians “not to just think abuse occurs only in nursing homes or with persons living alone and not having visitors”, but that “it can occur right in our midst”.

He stressed that more often the neglect may be related to changes in living situations and relationships “brought about by the older person’s growing frailty and dependence on others for companionship and for meeting (the) basic needs”.

In light of the problem, Dr. Estwick stated that the Ministry of Health was actively investigating any complaints relating to the care of the elderly in private and senior citizens’ homes through its advisory and inspection committee. He added that this body regularly inspects the 62 nursing homes and senior citizens’ homes across Barbados.

The Minister of Health said that by increasing awareness among physicians, mental health professionals, home health-care workers and others who provided services to the elderly and family members, that “this pattern of abuse or neglect could be broken”.

The one-day seminar, on elder abuse, which was organised by the Geriatric Hospital, attracted over 30 health-care practitioners from all of the district hospitals across the island. (CL)

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