Mon | Sep 25, 2017

A season of horror - Several elderly Jamaicans abandoned, abused at Christmas

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Masie Francis (centre) shows off her dance moves at a Christmas treat for the elderly members of the Rollington Town community in East Kingston.

Medical personnel at one the island's major hospital were recently left with gaping mouths when an elderly woman was brought in for emergency care after serious injuries from a fall she received at the house where she lived alone.

According to the medical personnel, holidays are famous for them seeing increased cases of the abuse and abandonment of elderly Jamaicans, as their relatives seek to party without the responsibility of caring for them.

One doctor, who asked not to be named, said a recent case led medical personnel through a range of emotions from anger to tears after they saw the condition of an elderly person who was taken to the hospital.

The doctor said that was one of two extreme cases seen at the hospital in recent weeks.

"In the first case, this elderly lady, whose relatives only see her when they give her Sunday dinner, was found in the bath where she had fallen after suffering a seizure in the house where she lived alone," said the doctor.

When she was taken to the hospital, she had to be cleaned by the nurses, and found to have rotting pressure ulcers, commonly referred to as 'bed sores'.

According to the doctor, such cases are not unusual at Christmas and in most cases, "it is relatives from abroad who come home to find their elderly relatives in a bad state and bring them in".

The doctor added: "In other instances the elderly are abandoned, because some want to go to party and they bring them in (to the hospital) and disappear."

Chairman of the board of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), Claudette Rickards, told The Sunday Gleaner that with more than 325,000 senior citizens in the islands 14 parishes the issue of care is a concern.

"At our recent board meeting we raised the issue of the abuse of the elderly. It is an issue in Jamaica and it is also happening in the rest of the region at varying degrees,"said Rickards.

"However, in Jamaica, the most common forms of abuse we find is financial abuse, where seniors are robbed of their pension, their property and in some cases family members are involved," added Rickards.

According to Rickards, elderly persons are also abused in infirmaries and nursing homes.

She noted that doctors are not obliged to report cases of abuse of the elderly as they are when the victims are children.

"We have parish officers across the islands. Part of what they do is to gather data on seniors, but of course, they may not catch every one, as everyday someone becomes a senior citizen. So we have to depend on our citizens to assist our officers," said Rickards as she noted that there are several elements to elderly abuse.

The Ministry of Health has reported that more than 100 mostly elderly individuals were abandoned in the islands hospitals, some for more than two years.