Elder abuse in the news. Again

by Madeleine Kolb

An article in the Washington’s Post’s Style section this week caught my attention right away.

For one thing, it was a departure from the usual bits about which TV shows and actors are Hot and which are Not. And the gossipy nuggets about who was seen wearing what and dining with whom in The District.

For another, its subject was the appalling, unspeakably cruel, and far too common neglect and abuse of old people in nursing homes and sometimes in their own homes.

The article, “Elder Abuse Activist Lands ‘Genius’ grant,” reported that former Department of Justice lawyer Marie-Therese Connolly had received a MacArthur Foundation grant to pursue her work writing, speaking, and advocating for elderly people who’d been subject to neglect or abuse.


Elder abuse has been in the news before

Over the past few years, I’ve read dozens of articles and newpaper accounts of abuse, neglect, and manipulation of elderly people, including:

*** cases of restaints—used to keep patients in nursing homes from falling out of bed—causing death;

***  inappropriate or over-dosing of nursing home patients with tranquilizers or other medications;

***  financial abuse, as in the case involving Mickey Rooney;

***  even sexual abuse of elderly patients. Ms. Connolly has written about a case of horrendous abuse of a 96-year-old woman, including rape by a family member.

These cases make the news and cause a brief outcry, yet little is done. Ms. Connolley suggests

Perhaps the twin culprits of ageism and denial are to blame.

We need to do more

It’s been estimated that 5 million people are subject to elder abuse every year but that as many as 96% of the cases are unreported. So kudos to Marie-Therese Connolley and the MacArthur Foundation, but others need to speak up as well.

Federal and state statutes and regulations have been enacted over the past 25 years or so to protect the health and safety of people in nursing homes. They were passed for a reason, and they need to be enforced.

What do you think we should do? Should we ask candidates for federal or state office their views on protecting our parents and grandparents and others from elder abuse? Don’t we need to find out whether those who aspire to hold office think that the government should just butt out and let the market sort it all out? Or whether they think that protecting the health and safety of all is a proper role for government?

photo byjurvetson

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