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Jun 15, 2016

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2016

The abuse of elderly persons in many forms is not rare; in fact it is common, but not often reported. On the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the message has been to place to the forefront the issues affecting the elderly population.  HelpAge Belize also called on the community to double up on efforts to wipe out abuse against older persons.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

In later life, be it a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, takes place within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.  The abuse of elders, particularly by caregivers, is a global issue which has prompted the World Health Organization to bring international attention to this social problem.  Today, June fifteenth, has been designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and a group of senior citizens has gathered here at Helpage Belize in commemoration of the day.


Ivorine Bulwer

Ivorine Bulwer, Executive Director, Helpage Belize

“It’s a day for us to create that level of awareness of what comprises elderly abuse, it may be by maybe intentional or it may be on a mission and we recognize, because of elder abuse, it’s certainly creates stressors, whether physical, whether emotional [or] financial, but it certainly alters the quality of life of older persons, you know, to the effect that it may hasten death.”


While there are a number of situations that can be considered as elder abuse, it does not include typical criminal activities against older persons, such as aggravated burglary or mugging.


Dr. Reina Cuellar-Martinez, BMA Southside Clinic

“It is very important, the detection, and not only that, to explain to them about the prevention and the types of intervention that’s available.  So that’s the idea of getting them informed and educating them about them and educating them about how to prevent it.”


Reina Cuellar-Martinez

And just how is an elderly person able to detect when he or she is being mistreated?  According to Dr. Reina Cuellar Martinez, the idea is to provide them with tips that they can easily follow.


Dr. Reina Cuellar-Martinez

“The interventions available is basically, it’s more social tips.  It’s telling them about how to take care of their finances.  It’s explaining to them to get involved in social activities, volunteering, not to be isolated.  We’re going to be talking about aspects of self-neglect, how to avoid it, the importance of checkups, mental checkups, as well.”


Time and again, the exploitation or misuse of monies belonging to the elderly is an issue that HelpAge Belize observes.  Executive Director Ivorine Bulwer says that this often occurs when they are no longer mobile or when there is diminished capacity.


Ivorine Bulwer

“Very often we are seeing incidences of financial abuse where persons have entrusted family members or loved ones to take care of their assets and as they age and their mobility declines or mental decline they then become a burden and what happens?  They are pushed aside, they are isolated, they are seriously neglected.  I will share with you a picture of neglect in Belize and it’s alarming okay.  However, HelpAge and its eleven branches we work, we provide day activities in nine of our branches.  We bring our older persons together to reduce the isolation, to empower them with information, to hear from them, to listen to them and to let them know what it is and to also communicate with them that at no point they should be afraid because we are going to see them through.”


By and large, the issue of elder abuse remains very much taboo in Belize and often it is a problem that occurs at home.


Dr. Reina Cuellar-Martinez

“It is not something that is openly expressed, it is not something that is openly spoken about and it’s slightly a stigma, I mean, for you to tell somebody you are abusing your mother or you are abusing your father by doing that.  They are happy with just having them home instead of having them in a home.”



“What advice would you give to anybody who has elderly people around them?”


Dr. Reina Cuellar-Martinez

“It’s hard.  I would never say it’s easy, I see it in my clinic a lot.  I mean I see people who literally make an effort to take care of their mother, their father, their grandparents.  It’s a lot of effort, it’s also being informed and educated about what the care consists of.  One of the major downfalls we find is how do you take care of somebody that’s in a wheelchair?  How do you take care of somebody that’s bedridden.  You need to explain to them about the importance of turning them, getting them out of bed, the importance of nutrition.  So the caretaker just can’t take on this responsibility assuming well I know sufficiently to do it, they also need to be educated.”


The International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse established World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in 2006. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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