Nowadays we have different days dedicated for every one and everything in our lives! We have Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Elders Day and even a day for cheesecakes! Strange! Superficially it is a bit weird to celebrate these days in a year but take a closer look. These days can be good reasons to smile, share and enjoy. But is that all? Or do these days convey a deeper significance? I believe so. Let us see an example.
The World Elders Day is celebrated in India on October 1 every year. Traditionally, this day is held to honor the elders, give gifts, talk and spend quality time with them. In a nutshell, do everything to make them feel happy! But hey! Think again! Shouldn’t we be doing this to our elders all through their lifetimes? Well, that’s the whole point! It is like eating, and earning money! The only requirement is our willingness.
Why World Elders Day?
Let us put into perspective the need for a separate day like World Elders Day. There is one simple reason: if you are one of those few already taking good care of your elders at home then this day could be spent to reiterate your pledge to continue to do your best, or probably look back to check if you have done enough or make amends. And if you are one of those looking for some reason to start, then this day could be the day!
To begin with, do we celebrate World Elders Day at our homes?
The World Elders Day has a dubious distinction! Today, it is nothing but sheer pain to see that this Day which ought to have been celebrated inside our homes with our elders is celebrated more outside in old age and destitute homes. The reason: today there is an increasing impatience among young men and women and this has forced many elders, willingly or unwillingly, to move into homes for the aged. Frankly speaking either way we are committing the heinous crime of forcing out someone who spent his entire lifetime for us. It may sound cliched yet it is a fact.
Where are we going wrong?
All of us know that we will be elders one day and join the ever increasing percentage of elderly citizens in the world’s population! And yet some of us continue to show gross indifference and disrespect to our elders in our own families and in the society! Each of us might have countless reasons, logics and excuses for this transgression but I guess this could be due to a combination of many problems. Let us try to put into a right perspective these various problems and what we could do to keep our elders happy.
Psychiatrists believe that fulfilling the physical, psychological and emotional needs of elders is the key to keep them healthy and happy. Intentional or unintentional neglect, impudence and maltreatment inside the families and in the society often lead to high levels of stress among elders. This in turn could lead to various physical ailments, psychological and emotional disorders and even cause death in some cases.
Experts say that elders are like children. Just like little babies, the moods of the elders swing, sometimes too quickly not allowing us enough time to grasp. But with a little effort and time we can make a difference! Again, willingness holds the key. Elders need attention at homes and if we don’t give it, they start demanding it. When the elders begin to feel they are neglected, they adopt ways to attract this attention from us which may be totally or partially raw, and at times irritating. Mental agitation, restlessness, falling sick often, nausea, vomiting and even suicide attempts could be just reactions to this neglect by family members. Immediate medical care, physical and psychological alone may not be enough. It is better to pause and ask us this question: What did I do to be here? Most often the answer will be neglect, intentional or unintentional. Remember, elders need attention.
What is ‘attention’?
Attention to our elders does not mean providing only basic amenities like a place to stay, food to eat, some money and new clothes during occasions. Most of us pat ourselves for providing these to our elders at home and expect them to appreciate it and if not at least stop complaining and save us the embarrassment! Unfortunately, we fail to fulfil their most logical and humane expectation of spending quality time with them. It doesn’t mean that we spend hours together with them; it only means that we find a few minutes of quality time for a heart-to-heart talk with them. In some cases, as psychiatrists point out, even certain things done inadvertently could strain relationships.
As suggested, spend a few minutes daily to talk to them. Do not take them for granted. Find out their interests, their requirements, and their concerns. Show respect to their feelings and consult them on important issues. Make them feel important. It is the only viable solution. It is an unassailable fact that we will also face aging! One day we will be elders too. Let us put ourselves into their shoes and ask us this: Will I be truly happy if my son or daughter provides only amenities but avoid talking to me?
Remember, by helping our elders stay physically fit and mentally happy, we are only helping ourselves and our future. Psychiatrists claim that our children who constantly witness how we treat our parents tend to repeat it when we get older. If we fail to give proper care and respect to our elders at home now we will get the same ugly treatment from our children later on in our lives!
Government too has a role to play in keeping elders happy
During the World Elders Day celebrations, the elders take to the roads to highlight their problems and submit petitions to the authorities concerned for alleviation of their difficulties. The Government too is duty bound to fulfill the logical demands of the elders in the society.
Take for instance the health care and health insurance for senior citizens in India. There is a huge void that needs to be fast filled up as far as the standards of health care and the rising health insurance costs for elders is concerned. Elder abuse is another issue the Government should take care. Elder abuse can take many forms and could even prove fatal. It is high time the Government of India speed up the effective implementation of the comprehensive policy for older persons it announced in 1999 to help and support older persons in India.
As always said, everyone has to face aging. One day you will be an elder too and you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to ignore you! Would you? Let us pledge to make a difference on the World Elders Day on October 1. Let us work towards bringing the much needed change, right at your home, right now.
It is a sad fact that most people who financially exploit the elderly get away with it. They often find it so easy that they do it time and time again. Each time the Exploiter becomes more and more bold. They act as though they are entitled to this money and no one else deserves it. This is why they must be prosecuted. There will be another victim.
Prosecuting these crimes is difficult for the State Attorney because of how it is done. In my career as a Professional Geriatric Care Manager in South Florida I have noticed a definite step-by-step process, almost a formula, that these Exploiters use to separate elders from their life savings. In many cases the Exploiter actually gets permission from the elder to take their money. Because of this, it can be argued that the elder “allowed” their assets to be taken and therefore, no crime took place. Furthermore, to argue that an elder was easily influenced by the Exploiter is to imply that the elder is incompetent and perhaps should not be in control of any of their finances. Few elders want to admit that. Instead they justify the theft or even cover it up. Once the elder realizes that they have been victimized, they may feel responsible, guilty or embarrassed. Few will testify against the one who stole from them.
When we think of someone who steals from the elderly, we conjure an image of the stranger lurking around the ATM machine or scam artist selling bogus products. Since Investment Broker, Bernard Madoff “made off’ with his client’s millions, we have all become familiar with the term “ponzi scheme”. But this type of financial exploitation is rare compared to the financial exploitation elder care professionals see every day which is perpetrated by an elderly person’s friends, family and caregivers. In cases I have worked I have seen that THIS type of exploitation achieved slowly, purposely and in FIVE PREDICTABLE STEPS. It is often done so artfully, that the elder and others around them see it happening but cannot believe it is true. They ignore all the small telltales signs. When the situation finally explodes, the FIVE STEPS are then seen as clear as day. By then it may be too late to do anything about it.
Here are the STEPs. Learn to recognize them and you may prevent this horrible crime from happening to yourself or someone you care about.
STEP ONE: The Exploiter comes to the rescue – they become a caregiver or helpmate when the person suffers a crisis. They may do extra favors for the elder without pay and refuse to take payment even when offered…at first. The Exploiter will later remind the elder of the favors and cause them to feel indebted to them.
STEP TWO: The Exploiter convinces the elder that they are the only one who cares about their welfare. The elder is brainwashed to believe that the true family only wants their money.
STEP THREE: The Exploiter separates the elder emotionally and physically from their family. They bring in their own family to be the “replacement family”. Next they tell the elder they are like family to them. May may even start to call the elder ” Mom” or “Dad”. They may deny the true family access to calling or visiting the elder and cause others in the community to regard the true family as exploiters. The elder may never know about all the family’s attempts to reach them.
STEP FOUR: The Exploiter gets permission to use the elder’s credit card, ATM card or other money for a small purchase. Then they continue to use the elder’s assets and transfer assets little by little to their own account or distribute assets among the Exploiter’s family members. The Exploiter may shop for the elder but purchase items for themselves as well. They may take the elder out to dinner but also invite their whole family and have the elder pay for it. When the Exploiter’s car needs repair or gas, the elder is asked to pay for since that car is used to shop or transport the elder. The elder will feel they have no choice but to agree.
STEP FIVE: Finally, the Exploiter will attempt to take legal control over the person. They may become Power of Attorney, change the Will to disinherit the family and bequeath assets to them self and or their family. A few years ago, I had a case where an attorney changed the Will of a confused dying woman to give her home and assets to an aide whom she had only known for two years. This was especially heinous because that lawyer had previously written the Will for the family and knew that the heirs existed. This family fought the caregiver in court and had to settle for about one tenth of their original estate. I testified against the the attorney and he has tried to retaliate against me several times since. A few weeks ago I testified in a case where a caregiver in her forties married a ninety- four year old man. She was previously his maid for about two years. She had a notary perform the ceremony in their living room while her children served as witnesses. This act automatically disinherited the elderly man’s entire family. The marriage was challenged and annulled. The elderly man was deemed incompetent by a court of law and assigned a guardian of his assets.
The secret weapon these perpetrators use is LOVE, ATTENTION, FAMILY- LIKE CONNECTION and even SEX…all the things human beings need but may not get once they are aged. In South Florida, many seniors retire to this area only to find themselves thousands of miles from their original family when they need them the most. This isolation creates a dangerous opportunity for exploiters.
If someone you love has a person in their life, be it friend, family, caregiver, or even a trusted professional and you feel they are taking over that person’s finances, lifestyle and even thought processes, get professional help! Contact a professional such as a Geriatric Care Manager or an Elder Law attorney and make sure someone contacts Adult Protective Services. The reality is that the police and State Attorney’s office will need you to practically build the case for them in order for them to prosecute. The evidence may need to be gathered secretly in order not to cause the Exploiter to quickly move to STEP FIVE. Most importantly, take action immediately. Know that the elder will feel you are meddling and taking over. They will not thank you for this because they have already been convinced that the Exploiter has somehow earned their loyalty and their money. Act anyway because it is the right thing to do.
We would like to stay young forever, but there is the inevitability of old age. We are scared to look old. We try to look young, but in spite of all technological advances – skin tightening, and dyeing the hair – and beauty parlors, old age creeps in. Even our attitude is flexible till our youth, and rigidity creeps in as we age. We are no longer in the main stream of social activity. We tend to live secluded life within our homes. We must live life proactively with enthusiasm, and be self-reliant: socially, financially, and emotionally.
Oh! the inevitability of old age!
Are you old in age?
- Or, you have ‘an old person’s attitude’!
The universal symptom of old age
* As rigidity increases in a body, it indicates arrival of old age.
A sapling is flexible.
An old plant is not; it is rigid.
An old animal or a bird have a less flexible body.
An old person does not have a flexible body.
Old age attitude – the exclusive symptom for humanity
* Rigid views in old age
For humanity, ‘rigidity in views’ is more relevant!
An old person is normally rigid in his attitude.
He has fixed habits.
He refuses to change.
Over the years, his daily chores have been sculpted, and tailor-made to suit his likes and dislikes.
He finds himself uncomfortable, when he faces a change.
* Rigid views in young age
A young person, with rigid views, is no longer young in mind.
A rigid attitude implies a stagnant mind.
All militants have rigid and stagnant attitude.
They can never appreciate or tolerate a different way of life or ritual, not in conformity with their anachronistic views.
Yet, they are not incorrigible.
But who will come forward to discuss with them, or to educate them?
Old minds in young bodies are dangerous to humanity.
Busy doing unproductive activities
* An old person may not know,’how to spend his time’.
He keeps himself busy:
(a) A morning walk with friends, to neutralise loneliness throughout the day,
(b) Reading newspaper – each page, leisurely, even classifieds – a favourite pastime for 2-3 hours,
(c) Playing cards daily – 10-12 hours a day, and
(d) Participation in honorary jobs, and consultancy.
Be an asset to society
* An old person is a liability to society, when he draws pension or avails social welfare measures.
Japan faces the problem of abnormal increase in number of retired, old persons.
An old person must earn money, without bothering about others’ criticism.
Then he is an active member of society.
He is less of a liability, and is back as an asset to the society.
Participation in social activities
Old persons feel less lonely.
It gives them a purpose of life.
Be a part in a social welfare project.
Meet older, lonely souls in old age homes.
Meet lonely old age or young lonely patients in hospitals.
Even looking after orphan pets, or discarded pets, is a satisfying activity.
Living in old memories
* Don’t live in old memories.
The World is full of grandparents who keep repeating same interesting anecdotes of their younger days to their disinterested grandchildren.
Create new memories, by living an active life – new hobbies, and new friends.
Children and grandchildren can’t share their lives with old grandparents, as a friend.
There is a generation gap.
Old persons have to find their conversation group in their age group.
How to face the old age
* Create fresh memories in life, by active participation in life.
A 93 years old Sikh, Fauza Singh ran the London marathon 2004, in 6 hours and 7 minutes.
He did it – an incredible physical feat.
But more important, his robust mental health,
And his enthusiasm for living life fully!
* Have a project in your life.
A 90-year-old friend is writing a new book every year, explaining his religion to his community, in an easy to understand language.
God has gifted him mental alertness, in old age.
* Enjoy being proactive in your habits.
If you are in seventies or eighties, but immobile or bed-ridden, move out in a wheel chair.
Enjoy the cool breeze, river banks, and scenic beauty of mountains.
Don’t stay secluded within the home.
Be thankful to God, for your good health, all these years.
Be thankful to God, for the old age.
Not everybody is granted old age experience by God.