Elder Abuse A Growing Epidemic in America
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“I’m saved so I can do whatever I want and God’s grace and mercy cover me and He will always forgive me no matter what I do or say!” These haunting words rang in my ears as the woman who said them was taking advantage of and abusing a widowed elderly lady who had dementia and couldn’t remember from one minute to the next. I was stunned and shocked. How could this woman claim to be a Christian; a follower of Jesus Christ, and purposely hurt an elderly widowed woman who was virtually helpless and weak?
Let me tell you the whole story of the elderly widowed woman and the abusive caregiver. The window was well into her 80s. She had worked hard most of her life putting up with an abusive husband, raising two young children and fostering several other young children. Keeping a neat home; food on the table and making sure they all had clean clothes to wear was a full-time job in itself. When her children were older the woman and her husband surrendered their hearts to Jesus and became new creatures in Christ. They started attending a church and the abused stopped and the household became one of warmth and love. The husband turned from his abusive ways and started to learn how to love his wife as Christ loved the church. The woman learned to rest in and rely upon Jesus and trust Him for her needs.
Now in her older years; her husband having passed away over a decade ago, the elderly woman found herself alone and a little forgetful. One day, the caregiver showed up and was kind to the elderly woman. The caregiver claimed to be a Christian and claimed to have received Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The elderly woman agreed to live with the caregiver. Things were fine for about a month, and then the caregiver started getting nasty. The caregiver would make the elderly lady clean the house, wash dishes and iron and fold the laundry. At first the elderly woman was only too happy to help but soon discovered she was being treated like a maid. She tired easily and her arthritic hands and knees started becoming increasingly painful. She told the caregiver she needed to rest her old body. After all, she explained, she wasn’t as young as she used to be and it took a lot of energy to get around and it was hard for her to constantly clean, wash, iron and fold. That did not sit well with the caregiver and she began physically, mentally and emotionally abusing the elderly woman.
After suffering about two months of the abuse at the hands of the caregiver, the elderly woman surmised she had to find a way to escape or she would end up dead at the hands of this caregiver. She devised a plan one night to feign sleep and wait until the household was asleep. Once she was sure everyone was asleep, she got her purse, coat and slipped on her little shoes. It was March and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground and it was cold. As quietly as she could, she opened the bedroom window and threw her purse on the ground. She put one foot out of the window and then the other. She hopped out and landed on her ankle. The pain was instant and she was sure she broke it but she couldn’t worry about that now; she had to try to find some help. She collected herself and closed the window as best she could from the outside. She picked up her purse and started walking down the street in the general direction of town. She was bound and determined to find a police station and report the abuse.
After walking approximately eight (8) miles a police car pulled up beside her. She was so grateful to see the officer she gave him a hug! She told him all about her terrible ordeal with her caregiver and asked if he would take her to the hospital so she could get her ankle checked out. The policeman took good notes of everything the elderly woman said and drove her straight to the hospital. What the elderly woman didn’t know, at the time, was the caretaker had gotten up while she had escaped and discovered the empty bed and open window. She called the police immediately and reported the elderly woman had wandered away citing she had severe dementia. Once the elderly woman was picked up, the officer innocently contacted the caregiver and advised her they had taken her to the hospital.
Back at the hospital the elderly woman was being treated for mild hypothermia and dehydration. She told the doctor and nurses the same story she told the police officer about how her caregiver had abused her. The doctor and nurses took good notes and wrote everything down in their report. After a complete examination the doctor was preparing to wheel the elderly lady to X-ray to see if her ankle was broken.
Just then the caregiver made her way to the emergency room and found the elderly lady in a wheelchair with the doctor preparing to wheel her out of the room. After a brief update from the doctor, the caregiver told the doctor he was not to take X-rays of the elderly lady’s ankle and demanded she be released into her care immediately. The doctor was shocked and attempted to explain the ankle may be broken and he needed to find out so he could properly treat and help it heal. He advised the caregiver the elderly lady would not be going back to her care.
The police officer heard the arguing and went to check on the elderly lady. She told the officer she would rather spend the night in jail than go back to the caregiver’s home. The officer said that would not be necessary and they would find an assisted living home for her to stay at while all of this was sorted out. The elderly lady was relieved but still very much afraid of the caregiver.
The elderly lady ended up in an assisted living facility where the caregiver was allowed full access to her. The elderly lady was severely abused and placed on drugs for a disease she did not have. The doctors simply prescribed drugs at the request of the caregiver alone; without examining the elderly lady. The elderly lady wondered what she had done to deserve this kind of treatment and started praying every night that the Lord would take her home. She no longer wanted to live and be subjected to the continual abuse from her caregiver.
The caregiver was the daughter of the elderly widowed woman. The caregiver claimed to be a Christian and claimed to have accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Yet the caregiver knowingly physically, mentally and emotionally abused an elderly woman; who was also a widow; who was also her own mother. The caregiver erroneously had the elderly woman declared incompetent and proceeded to embezzle large sums of money from the elderly woman and steal valuables from her home to keep for herself.
The elderly woman was a Godly woman and she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and surrendered her heart to Him many years before. Jesus had changed her life in ways she never could have imagined. Jesus had changed her abusive husband into a loving God-fearing man. She, herself, felt the Lord’s peace, grace, mercy and love for her through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and found rest and solace. She forgave her daughter and prayed to the Lord and asked Him to stop the abuse and show her how she could love her daughter and not harbor hatred for her in her heart. The elderly woman practiced every day her forgiveness toward her caregiver and tried to only show her love and not anger or hatred.
This is a true story and I wrote this article to bring attention and awareness to a growing epidemic of elder abuse in this Country. It is not just happening in nursing homes or assisted living homes. It is happening in homes where the children are now the caretakers of their elderly parents. If you suspect someone is abusing or taking advantage of an elderly person, it is your righteous duty to report them; regardless of who they are.
I am passionate about protecting the elderly and their rights because I have witnessed elder abuse first-hand. The elderly have lived rich full lives and are now on the other side of their youth. They deserve to be treated like royalty instead of dismissed and regarded as useless. The elderly have a wealth of information to pass on and share. They have the best stories and have lived in times we haven’t. They have seen and done things we haven’t seen and done and they have witnessed the birth of many things that we take for granted today. The elderly are wise and full of wisdom. My grandfather used to say, “You don’t get to be old; being no fool.” He was right! The elderly have a lot to offer and a lot to teach us younger whippersnappers. They uphold dignity and respect and show us how to value life. Don’t discard the elderly like yesterday’s news. They still have a purpose to fill for if they didn’t then surely God would have taken them before they were old and gray.
I would like to leave you with a couple scriptures that tell us how God feels about the elderly and the widow. This passage comes from 1st Timothy 5:8: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and windows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Remember, God is watching to see what you will do when faced with a choice of looking the other way or speaking out about elder abuse; and He is taking notes. If you have the ability to stand in the gap as a voice for a victim of elderly abuse I would encourage you to be brave and strong and bring the sin into the light by taking it to the proper authorities. As for me, I am the Granddaughter to that elderly woman and I would give my life trying to save her. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart and to shed light on the abuse of the elderly in America.
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Thank-you for sharing your painful story,for how are others to know if we don't stand up and be counted?! God Bless your journey and praise God for your survival!