A shelter in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, was reaching out to people during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to be especially aware of the condition of the elderly and disabled, as they’re all too often the victims of unreported physical violence. October, if you were unaware, was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, designed to make people more aware of the need to avoid discrimination against those with disabilities when hiring and in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed 20 years ago, in October. But despite all these things to raise awareness, neglect, abuse and discrimination against the disabled still do occur.
People who care for the elderly and disabled should keep a close watch on things like skin tears, bruises and any unusual behavior that could hint that the person is under duress. It can be difficult with some people, especially those with dementia or conditions that make communication difficult, but simply being aware can make a huge difference in the lives of those who are suffering from abuse.
The abuse can come from children who take care of the person, or even hired caregivers. And all too often, while there may not actual physical or mental abuse such as beating, roughness or threats, neglect is a factor. Some people simply aren’t equipped to care for someone with physical challenges and may leave them too long without seeing if they need something to eat or drink, if they need medications, if they need to use a restroom or if they just need some simple companionship.
Things like the ADA and October being named National Disability Employment Awareness month are designed to help prevent these problems and make people more aware of the special needs some people have. While we’ve come a long way with things like improved access and public facilities, there are still many challenges to face.
One of those challenges is convincing the abused person to report the problem, which is not always easy, especially when the abuse comes from a family member. Many disabled people, particularly the elderly, feel that what goes on in private is no one’s business or that if they do report their family member or caretaker, they may feel that they’ll have no one to care for them at all.
Mobility appears to be a big factor in the risk for abuse, with those who can move around on their own in either a wheelchair or power chair, or even with the use of a cane or walker, are far less likely to be abused or neglected but abuse isnâ€™t limited to those who just stay at home and are cared for by family or visiting nurses.
In August 2008, a man born in North Carolina was deported to Mexico as an illegal immigrant. He had mental disabilities that prevented him from understanding what was happening. He was forced to lived on the streets and in prisons, during his time in Mexico, suffering hunger and abuse, for four months before he was helped by the American Embassy. Every official he came into contact with failed to be aware of his problems, offer help or thoroughly check his background. Nursing home abuse and neglect shows up in the news regularly, often times due to proper testing of the one with the disability. These things are serious problems that we as a society are still not handling properly.
Awareness of the special needs that all disabled people have, and attempts at being sensitive to those needs and taking just a little extra time to ask questions and be patient, can make a huge difference and lower the risk of abuse or neglect dramatically.