Elderly Abuse

Topics: Health care, Old age, Health care provider Pages: 38 (13294 words) Published: August 18, 2013
ELDER ABUSE AND NEGLECT IN INDIA
MALA KAPUR SHANKARDASS*
* Dr. Mala Kapur Shankardass is a Sociologist, Health Social Scientist, and Gerontologist. She teaches at Maitreyi College (South Campus, University of Delhi) and is also Chairperson of Development, Welfare and Research Foundation (DWARF), a voluntary organization with a focus on little things that matter to improve quality of life. She has been a Consultant and Resource person with various UN agencies, WHO, INIA, ATCOA and other international and national organizations involved with ageing issues. She is also National Representative of International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA). She can be contacted at D 104 Anand Niketan, New Delhi 110021, India. Email mkshank2001@yahoo.co.in>

SUMMARY In India, elder abuse and neglect has only recently been a subject worthy of serious academic inquiry and concerted action. Though it is still under recognized and insufficiently acknowledged, mainly due to absence of valid statistics and systematic collection of facts related to the problem, limited studies and inadequate documentation. In dealing with the problem, the issue of under reporting as well as lack of conceptual and definitional clarity comes in the way of finding ways and means to combat it. The understanding of abuse and neglect of older people and finding solutions to deal with it is further complicated by the fact that a social taboo on discussing the subject exists in the country and there is consistent denial by family members that abuse takes place in their homes. Also, from the legal discourse angle is the difficulty that not all of the situations characterized as abuse fit into existing legal categories. Consequently, little attention is being given to elder abuse as a social issue, or as one relevant to public health. Even less effort is being devoted to tackling the underlying causes of abuse and developing appropriate interventions. The paper highlights some of the actions that can be taken in the country at the individual and the societal level to alleviate abuse and neglect from the health, welfare, and criminal justice perspectives. The article also integrates national and international concerns and hopes to generate thinking and action that would work towards reducing the risks, vulnerabilities, and circumstances of abusive environments for older people, in the family, community, institutions and in society. INTRODUCTION Elder abuse and neglect, despite denials from certain sources, are not new phenomenon in India. But, as a subject worthy of serious academic inquiry and concerted action, it has begun to receive attention only at the turn to the 21st century when the rapidly growing numbers and proportions of older persons in the population is gradually being acknowledged as a significant group having rights, requiring care, services and programs for living a life of dignity and respect (Shankardass, 2003 [b]). However, some significant small scale studies on elder abuse conducted in the 1990s (Shah, et al, 1995, Bambawale, 1996 & 1997; Kapoor, 1997; Shankardass, 1997,

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Prakash, 1998, Ushasree & Basha, 1999; Ramamurti & Jamuna, 1999; Jamuna and Padmasree, 2000) paved the way for greater academic and research interest. Responsibility of taking care of older persons and protecting them traditionally has fallen on individuals in the family and the community. Yet, family and community are now recognized as being responsible for elder abuse and neglect, though defining it is still controversial (Shankardass, 2004 [c]). The predominant focus of limited public, research and academic interest has been on abuse and neglect of older persons in the domestic and community settings and there has been very little concern with abuse and neglect occurring within institutional settings (Shankardass, 2003 [b] and 2004 [c]), maybe because comparatively fewer...

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