Letterto the Editor: Protection of Older Adults
Letterto the Editor
Iwish express my views on the issue of protection of our seniormembers of society, especially those who are residing in the LTCfacilities and in homes. I will respond to one of the articlespublished in your newspaper discussing different harms and crimesthat are perpetrated against our older adults. To be more specific, Iwill answer the question raised by the author of the article, whoasked “Whois responsible for protecting these individuals?" by discussingthe role of family members in protecting older adults, circumstancesunder which decisions may be made on behalf of older adults, andsituations in which the government may make significant decisions onmatters affecting older adults.
Roleof families in protecting older adults
Familiesare the first line of defense for older adults since they comprise ofpeople who have shared life experiences with the older adults, whichmeans that they understand their wishes as well as their weak areas.Although family members are expected to provide social support toeach other at all times, families should assume the responsibilitiesof taking care of their related older adults when these adults losetheir cognitive ability and capacity to carry out activities of dailyliving on their own (Peri, Fanslow & Hand, 2009). At this level,these seniors become vulnerable to all sorts of abuse since they donot understand too much of what is happening around them the a fewwho do may not be able to defend themselves.
Althoughfamilies have the responsibility of protecting their older adultsfrom family violence and neglect by close relatives, the level ofprotection should vary depending on the health condition of olderadults. Family members should not assume the responsibility for theirolder adults when those seniors are still competent enough to makerational decisions (Peri, Fanslow & Hand, 2009). The level ofcompetence of older adults is stipulated in different legislations. The issue of protecting older adults does not only involve the closefamily members, but also the distant relatives, especially when closerelatives (such as sons and daughters) are dead or work away fromhome.
Makingdecisions for older adults
Hospitals,community service organizations, and all types of LTC facilities aremandated to protect the autonomy of their clients, who include olderadults. This means that health care providers in these facilitiesshould allow older adults to make decisions on matters that affecttheir wellbeing, instead of delivering standardized services to them(Benson, 2010). However, older adults with impaired cognition may notbe able to decide what kind of treatment or services that they want.Even at this level, the LTC facilities are not allowed to makedecisions on behalf of their older adult clients.
Alldecisions affecting the incapacitated or adults with impairedcognition should be made by their surrogates (Fritch, Petronio, Helft& Torke, 2013). This provision applies to older adults whomanaged to appoint surrogates when they were still competent to makerational decisions. However, the health care facilities may makedecisions that, to their judgment, serve the best interest of theolder adults in case these adults had not appointed surrogates. Thismeans that the LTC facilities are allowed to make decisions whenolder adults are incompetent to make decisions on their own and thereare no surrogates to decide on their behalf. However, somejurisdiction gives full responsibility to the courts to decidewhether older adults are competent or not, which means that the LTCfacility should acquire the permission before declaring seniors to beincompetent.
Whenthe government should make significant decisions
Governmentagencies are expected to give LTC facilities the autonomy they needto deliver services to their clients. However, there are specialcircumstances that require the government to intervene and makesignificant decisions in the best interest of older adults. For aninstant, the law enforcement agency may make critical decisions (suchas closing the LTC facilities) in case it discovers that the facilityviolates the basic rights, such as the right to autonomy, movement,and access to fundamental services. In addition, the government mayinterfere with the normal operations of the LTC facilities in casesof disasters (Benson, 2010). The government is mandated to protectall citizens, but older adults residing in the LTC facilities mayrequire special attention given that most of them may not be able torescue themselves. Therefore, the government should only get involvedin protecting individual older adults in special cases, such as theviolation of their basic rights and in cases of emergency.
Iinvite the older adults, their families, and surrogates to review theexisting legislation that regulates the LTC facilities in order tounderstand the basic rights of seniors. It has been said that“knowledge is power”, which means that having the knowledge aboutthe rights of older adults will empower the senior members of thesociety and those who have the primary reasonability of protectingthe elders. With this information, all stakeholders will be able todetermine their limits and the extent to which they should getinvolved with issues affecting the seniors.
Benson,F. (2010). CDC’sdisaster planning goal: Protect vulnerable older adults.Washington, DC: CDC.
Fritch,J., Petronio, S., Helft, R., & Torke, A. (2013). Making decisionfor hospitalized older adults: Ethical factors considered by familysurrogates. Journalof Clinical Ethics,24 (2), 125-134.
Peri,K., Fanslow, J., & Hand, J. (2009). Keeping older people safe bypreventing elder abuse and neglect. Ministryof Social Development.Retrieved October 31, 2015, fromhttps://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/journals-and-magazines/social-policy-journal/spj35/35-keeping-older-people-safe.html