The only constant in life is death and aging. No, it isn’t death and taxes. Taxes can be avoided, delayed, or eliminated, but not aging. From the day we arrive on this planet until we leave it, we age. A new parent can tell you that their newborn baby changes daily.
Adults change too. Yet we often deny something that is so ubiquitous. That body that once ran agilely across the field now sits on the sideline. The mind that once recited all the works of their favorite author now struggles to recall the name of that author. Or the person that once had no interest in golf now plays regularly. An artist emerges from a person who seemingly had no artistic bent.
Abuse Against Vulnerable Adults
The changes are not linear. They are not in one direction but multi-directional and multi-faceted. This can be challenging and wonderful. My neighbor is 98 years old, her face is lined, and her hearing failing, yet she does her yoga practice daily. She swam daily until COVID closed the pool, and she decided not to return once it reopened. Her conversation is about local and national events and articles from the NYTs. Her mind is sharp, yet her body is failing.
A stranger pushed their way into my neighbor’s home several years ago. The individual had been watching her, we suspected and entered her home where she lived alone. She escaped and called the police, who found the stranger lying on the bed in an upstairs bedroom. This is scary. As we grow older, we are more vulnerable to those who would take advantage of that vulnerability.
Currently, it is thought that 1 in 10 vulnerable adults experience abuse each year. This is among people who live in the community, not in a long-term care setting. The number of vulnerable adults living in long-term care facilities experiencing abuse may be higher. This abuse is at the hands of family, friends, caregivers, and trusted advisors. It includes financial abuse and exploitation, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect.
Your Voice Is Needed
VOYCE is working to understand the adult protection system in Missouri, identify ways in which the system does not work for its intended users, facilitate working relationships with those working in the system, and create a strategic plan to effect policy and legislative changes where needed. Every Missourian has a place in this work, whether it is increasing your awareness and education about adult abuse and mistreatment, participating in events and initiatives with VOYCE or one of our coalition partners, or getting involved as an advocate for change. Reach out to VOYCE. Your voice is needed.
Whether it is the grandchild who regularly takes money from their grandparent without their permission or the caregiver who hits and pushes the person for whom they are to provide care, it is abuse.
Let’s not deny the existence of abuse. Let’s not call it a “family issue” when the abuser is a family member. Let’s not assume all older and vulnerable persons are senile or confused. Let’s believe them when they say with words or actions that they are being harmed. Let’s provide a life for older and vulnerable persons that is full, safe, and worth living. After all, we’re all getting older and vulnerable.