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Increase In Abuse Of Elderly In Grand Bahama

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

THE Department of Social Services in Grand Bahama is seeing an increase in abuse and mistreatment of elderly people, particularly those with disabilities.

Charlamae Fernander, head of the Department of Social Services for Grand Bahama and the Northern Bahamas, said that “it is happening way too often" in Bahamian society.

She is urging people who suspect abuse of an older person to call their abuse hotline at 727-2471 so the department can investigate it.

The Department of Social Services recognises the month of October as Older Persons’ Month. The theme this year is “Digital Equity for All Ages.”

According to Ms Fernander, any individual aged 60 years and older is considered an older person or senior citizen.

Unfortunately, she noted that seniors are being victimised in various ways, from persons mishandling their finances to mistreating them.

In The Bahamas, she noted that there appears to be an increase in older persons who suffer from degenerative diseases, such as dementia or Alzheimers.

Ms Fernander said that many people do not understand the disease or how to deal with it.

“They say that the senior citizen is being rude and uncooperative,…and so they get mistreated," she said.

In some instances, seniors have been tied down and restrained, Ms Fernander reported.

“We have reports of seniors being abused, and it happens way too often. It is not a new type of abuse, and it seems to be increasing. People don’t have the patience nor the understanding of dementia and Alzheimer's.

“They think that tying the person to the bed or tying them down to keep from wandering is appropriate. It is really some horrific thing, and we may wish to judge the persons who are doing these things, but very often people just don’t know what to do, and they are at their wit's end.”

Ms Fernander said that the Department of Social Services can help people in caring for seniors or understanding such conditions.

“We would like seniors, and anybody else who is concerned, a concerned neighbour, that they can reach out to us 24 hours through our hotline here in the GB district at 727-2471.

“If you are suspicious of something happening, you don’t have to have proof. It is our job to go and investigate to see what the situation is. You only have to honestly believe something is not going well with a senior person.

“You call us on the hotline, and we will intervene and see how best the matter can be resolved so persons can get the assistance or relief they need.

“The hotline is not just for child abuse, it is for any kind of abuse, any kind of emergency assistance the individual or family member may require.”

Ms Fernander indicated that bringing the matter to the attention of the DSS does not always mean that someone will be arrested or punished.

“It is better to allow us to intervene. It might not end the way you think. The whole point is to rescue the senior citizen from that type of treatment because there is a better way to deal with it. And if persons cannot do it, then we can make some other arrangements. But it does happen way too often.”

Ms Fernander said that the department would be able to provide statistics concerning abuse of seniors at the end of the year.

"By the end of the year we can provide good statistics. I don’t want to give any inaccurate numbers, but I know it is too much, it is more than it should be.”

Ms Fernander said the hotline is to report any type of abuse. She said men are also abused by women, but are less likely to report it.

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