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Elder Abuse Awareness & the Denham Town Project

Along with Alzheimer’s awareness, June is also the month dedicated to raising awareness for abuse of the elderly.  According to HelpGuide.org, over half a million reports of elder abuse in America are made to authorities each year, and many more instances are never reported.  

Protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities should be of paramount importance to all of us.  Here at the RALAcademy we strive to teach caregivers and owners of RAL homes how to create and maintain safe and enriching environments for seniors.  We know that you join us in this goal, but we also recognize the possibility of falling short of this standard and we encourage you to be vigilant in identifying the signs of elder abuse as you seek to offer the best care for the residents in your homes.  

When we think of elder abuse we usually think about physical and visible forms of abuse.  However, abuse is not always actively done with force. It can also be neglect. Elders who are not fed, not kept clean or warm, not kept safe, or given proper medical care.  

Do you see changes in personality or behavior? Has the senior lost weight?  Is there noticeable tension or friction between the senior and their caregiver?  

It is also worth noting that not everyone who abuses the elderly will seem like bad people.  Often they are just people who are struggling to handle the pressures and responsibilities of looking after someone who is frail and unable to take care of themselves.  But this does not change the fact that our seniors must be protected from such treatment, no matter what the reasons for it. If we see something that indicates abuse might be taking place, it is our responsibility to report it so that it can be stopped.

One of the more common and often overlooked forms of elder abuse is self-neglect.  Diminished capacity and physical or mental impairment can mean that older adults are no longer able to perform essential self-care.  They may lack basic personal hygiene, appear dehydrated, malnourished, or underweight, and be unable to pay bills or properly manage their medications.  Self-neglect can be a sign of depression, grief, dementia, or other medical problem, and in many cases, the older person will refuse to seek assistance. They may be in denial, feel ashamed about needing help, or worried about losing their independence.  These are all areas that we need to be aware of and ready to respond to when we see them.

In assisted living facilities across the nation and around the world, elders experience emotional, mental and financial abuse, enduring substandard living conditions with little to no actual assistance.  

One clear example of this neglect came to light during the travels of one of our own RALA family members, Isabelle Guarino, when she visited Golden Age Retirement Home in Denham Town, Jamaica.  It was here that she got to see first-hand what some of the more extreme examples of substandard living conditions in retirement communities look like.

The following is an excerpt from her story…

“On my visit to Denham Town in 2015 we went to see an elderly home that had just been renovated in 2013. I could barely keep my jaw from dropping while walking through this facility. Golden Age has horrific conditions to put anyone in, let alone an elderly resident. Let me paint the picture for you….

“On my visit to Denham Town in 2015 we went to see an elderly home that had just been renovated in 2013. I could barely keep my jaw from dropping while walking through this facility. Golden Age has horrific conditions to put anyone in, let alone an elderly resident. Let me paint the picture for you….

The bungalows that the residents live in smell from a mile away, you feel like you’re breathing in feces as you approach the door. The ground is cold cement stained with urine and stool. There is a metal frame twin size bed with a 1/2-inch-thick mattress type blanket protecting the residents old, fragile skin from being torn apart by these metal springs.  Destroyed blankets or sheets, and some rooms didn’t even have pillows. The residents have nothing else in the rooms besides four colorful walls and a rickety bed. There were no shelves for books, no pictures of family, no music, broken fans, nothing to make them feel at home or welcomed or loved in their last days of life.

The main common area has benches and tables where the residents gather to eat, but upon visiting the kitchen we discovered there was not much food to be eaten. The shelves were basically empty; the kitchen was lacking proper cooking utensils and it seemed like the residents ate rice and beans once a day…maybe twice. 

We visited Golden Age Retirement home in hopes of spending time with residents and cheering them up. What we found made it hard to even fake a smile. When the tour was ending, we went into the facility administrator’s office and she broke down in tears, she admitted that the facility was in desperate need of help. She needs medicine and food for the residents desperately. She would love to be able to provide them with better bedding and more materials to make it feel more home like. Most of these residents don’t have anyone coming to visit, so music and games and any form of entertainment is a welcomed treat. How could I go back home and continue teaching people how to serve others and create these amazing assisted living properties and not help these beautiful residents in Jamaica?” 

In response to her experiences in Denham Town, Jamaica, Isabelle created a Gofundme page to help raise funds to provide the basic necessities for these elders…necessities that you and I often take for granted.   Golden Age Retirement Home needs people like you who are willing to open their hearts and donate to support these vulnerable elders.

If you would like to hear more about this amazing cause or would like to donate today, please check out https://www.gofundme.com/elderly-home-in-jamaica-needs-help.  Your generosity will go such a long way to sustain and add dignity to the remaining years of these beautiful seniors’ lives.  

Want more info about elder abuse?

Want to be able to pick up on the clues when it may be going on around you?

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/elder-abuse-and-neglect.htm offers more suggestions of possible indications of elder abuse to help keep you informed.  We will all become old one day, if we are lucky, and any of us can end up helpless. Let’s protect those who are in need of help now.