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Crimes and Generations, or How We Throw Our Elders Out With the Bathwater

By Dave R.

April 19, 2012

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Societies across the world will be facing many challenging situations over the coming years but one of the greatest may well turn out to be one of the most shameful; the hidden and unrecognized, wide scale abuse of our elderly. What does it mean now and what will it mean in the future for many people in the HIV generations that have been saved from an early death but may be condemned to a miserable last few decades?

Suspicious Senior Deaths Often Go Uninvestigated: Shoddy Practices, Lack of Standards Create 'Hidden Scandal': Propublica Dec. 21st 2011

Shocking Facility Elder Abuse Caught ON Tape: Hidden Camera Catches Workers Hitting, Taunting Dementia Patient: Newser.com April 8th 2011

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Shocking footage shows elderly Alzheimer's patient being hit in the face, shoved into a wall and thrown over her bed: Mail Online28 June 2011

Elderly Abused at 1 in 3 Nursing Homes: ABC News July 30th 2011

Cruelty of the carers: Damning report into home help for the elderly finds neglect so appalling some wanted to die:

Cancer victim, 76, had to struggle to kitchen to heat up a meal -- because it was claimed health and safety rules meant home helpers could not operate a microwave:

Another patient, in her 90s, put to bed at 2.45pm: Daily Mail Sunday, Mar 18 2012

Caught on camera was tape after tape of footage of Norma being thrown into bed, screamed at, threatened with fists and a slipper. The video also revealed workers helping themselves to Norma's food and to money from her wallet: CTV News Canada Friday, Feb. 6, 2004

These are just a few recent headlines concerning abuse of the elderly. Believe me there are hundreds more and from every corner of the globe. At first I couldn't really believe it when I read similar stories here in The Netherlands but after a few minutes researching, I discovered that this is no local phenomenon. It happens in every country and on every continent. Even in Asian countries, where respect for the elderly is regarded as a cultural obligation, the rise of elder abuse reflects what is happening across the world. Why has society stopped caring? When did 'out of sight, out of mind' just become so much easier?

More Information: Taiwan's Elderly Suffer as Family Values Change

Historically, when times are tough, people start losing their jobs and their homes; debts are rising and there's pressure from all sides and eventually, the weakest links in society become targets for frustration. People lose patience with minorities and tolerance becomes a luxury. It becomes survival of the fittest and to hang with the rest. It seems that the best of human nature and support for our fellow man depends on stability, peace and prosperity.

It's taken me more than sixty years to realize that the human being is not a benign animal. Every day on the news the clues are there in the troubled areas of the world, for all to see. We've all seen in glorious technicolor what people are capable of doing to each other in the world's war zones and now modern media is bringing it to our dinner tables, it seems that you only need scratch away at the veneer of civilization and man becomes a vicious, snarling monster, capable of unspeakable cruelty. You just have to read a history book to know that it has always been so but the idea was surely that every new generation would be an improvement on the last!

We take some nervous comfort from the fact that it often seems far removed from our doorsteps but that's not the case; social brutality is never far away. It's in your town, on your street, maybe even in your own family and man's inhumanity to man is startlingly reflected in the way we're treating our elderly. It is nothing less than criminal behavior but fails to make the headlines every day; why not? Empathy, sympathy and compassion don't cost money, yet even those noble personality traits have seemingly been lost in the ideological struggles between corporate profits and personal survival.

As people living with HIV, we have a special interest in this area. We're not only more likely to reach old age these days but we're going to be seniors with medical problems that most of the rest of the population doesn't have and more importantly, doesn't understand! In many cases, HIV-related mental deterioration may play a role, leaving that person completely vulnerable to exploitation. If old people are being regularly abused and bullied in nursing and care homes, or by family and unscrupulous predators, how much more likely is that to happen to older people with HIV?

More Information: Survivor Project: Lesbian, Gay Male, Bisexual and Transgendered Elders: Elder Abuse and Neglect Issues

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Dave R.

Dave R.

English but living since 1986 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. HIV+ since 2004 and a neuropathy patient since 2007. I've seen quite a bit, done quite a bit and bought quite a few t-shirts if you know what I mean; but all that baggage makes me what I am today: a better person I believe, despite it all.

Arriving on TheBody.com, originally, was the end result of getting neuropathy as a side effect of the medication, or the virus, or both. I found it such a vague disease and discovered very little information that wasn't commercially tinged, or scientifically impenetrable, so I decided to create a daily Blog and a website where practical information, hints, tips and experiences for patients could be gathered together in one place.

However, I was also given the chance to write about other aspects of living with HIV and have now contributed more articles about those than about neuropathy. That said, neuropathy remains my 'core subject' although one which unfortunately dominates both my life and that of many other HIV-positive people.

I'm not a doctor or qualified medical expert, just someone with neuropathy and HIV who has spent the last few years researching the illness and trying to create information sources for people who want to know more.

I also have my own personal website and write for PositiveLite.com.


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