Sunday, October 20, 2013
Following up on her story of filal support in China, AP Writer Kristen Gelineau's new article on elder abuse identifies several factors that can lead to tragedy: an elder's frailty, a family's inability to provide appropriate care (whether because of emotional unsuitability or financial pressures, or both), and isolation. The latest account comes from Kristen's own country, Australia, "a developed, wealthy nation considered progressive in its treatment of seniors."
Eighty-eight year old Cynthia lived with a daughter, Marguerite, who received a caregiver's benefit of about $500 every two weeks. That money was her mother's one last tie to the outside world, but it wasn't enough.
"Once the payments started, the government welfare agency, Centrelink, never asked for further medical updates on Cynthia, Marguerite said.
Cynthia also vanished from the health care system. Medicare records show that until 2003, she regularly saw doctors and took prescription medications; Marguerite said the doctors' visits were covered by government health care. But after 2003, Cynthia never saw another doctor, never filled another prescription.
She simply slipped through the cracks, showing how the protection of social networks can evaporate with age. A doctor or teacher may notice the bruises on a child. But almost nobody sees the bruises on a secluded older person — and those who do may chalk them up to aging.
Marguerite's explanation, years later, for why she stopped taking her mother to the doctor: 'Well, she didn't say she was ill...She seemed happy.'"
As Kristen's reporting makes clear, what happens to Cynthia could happen in any country that turns its eyes away from the potential for suffering by isolated elders. Make yourself read "Neglected Old Australian Woman Suffers Brutal Fate."