Saturday, August 25, 2007

Working with the Elderly

On Thursday I attended another luncheon meeting of the Marin Interfaith Council, the topic of which was "Serving Your Senior Community." Our speakers, Jenefer Duane, CEO/Executive Director of Elder Financial Protection Network, and Lee Pullen, Program Manager for Adult Protective Services, spoke about elder needs and care. Since these events are mainly directed towards clergy of the mainstream persuasions, they sought to educate about issues such folks encounter in their ministries.

They came well prepared, with a power point presentation, statistics, and handouts containing written information, resources and contacts. Elder financial abuse is a growing problem. Most perpetrators have a close relationship to the victim. Besides financial abuse, lonely, often dependent and confused, elders suffer physical assault, constraint or deprivation, neglect, over and under medication, and abandonment.

Elders may become neglectful of personal hygiene, malnourished or dehydrated. Memory loss, fear of loss of independence, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and dependence on the perpetrator(s) lead to underreporting of these crimes.

Our discussion included the argument for not isolating populations by age. Contemporary American lifestyles tend to group small children with each other, youth with youth, and elders with elders. We are better served when communities are age-integrated.

For Pagan readers of this blog, I quote the definition of clergy for mandated reporting:

"Clergy member" means priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or recognized religious denomination or organization.

"Clergy member" does not include unpaid volunteers who periodically visit elder or dependent adults, unless their main occupation or vocation involves active or ordained ministry.
I leave it to the individual Pagan to decide in what capacity she or he is functioning. Local and regional resources and more detailed information, by state, about elder abuse and reporting at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

If there is one thing I want Pagans to take away from this is the knowledge that if we encounter anything resembling elder abuse, we are mandated reporters. Most of you probably know we are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse, but the law requiring 'clergy' to report suspected elder abuse is recent. So now you know. May you never have to do it.


Rowan Fairgrove said...

Thank you for reporting on this and for your interfaith involvement! Rowan

Anonymous said...

As a Wiccan priestess who is a geriatrics expert, I would like to say that in my mind and spirit, reporting of interpersonal violence and abuse of any sort are always mandatory for ethical Witches. As far as I'm concerned, "do no harm" includes not standing by and witnessing harm without trying to intervene. Mandated reporting laws are welcome in that they protect the reporter who acts in good faith. But the ethical obligation has always been there.

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