The Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG) has developed the 'Guide to Good Treatment for the Elderly', which aims to collaborate with family members, institutions, caregivers, and also the elderly or any other person in their environment, so they can identify the signs that indicate that they can be giving a situation of inappropriate treatment towards our elders. The guide wants to inform about the risk factors that can lead to the mistreatment of the elderly, which often goes unnoticed, and about the measures that must be taken to prevent it.

To confirm that there is abuse, the situation must be analyzed thoroughly, evaluating the attitude and behavior of both the affected person and the person responsible for the alleged ill-treatment, and the context in which they occur. To contribute to this task, the SEGG has established a series of signals that serve to alert about this situation, and that we detail below:

The guide wants to inform about the risk factors that can lead to abuse, which often goes unnoticed, and about the measures that must be taken to prevent it.

  • Physical signs: undoubtedly the most obvious and easy to detect and consist of injuries or disorders whose cause is attributable to a poor performance, or a deficiency of care when the elderly needs assistance. The most frequent are the appearance of ulcers, malnutrition or dehydration, weight loss without justified cause, lack of adherence to the prescribed medical treatment, inadequate hygiene, repeated hospital admissions that are not due to the natural consequences of a chronic pathology, that lacks devices such as glasses, dental prostheses, hearing aids ...
  • Sexual signs: In fact, physical signs are also considered because they refer to genital lesions or venereal diseases that may be due to sexual abuse.
  • Psychological or emotional signs: the older one suffers anguish, sorrow, uneasiness or discomfort due to certain behaviors, such as treating him with paternalism, ignoring him, despising him, not respecting his right to privacy ... that can trigger feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness or low self-esteem, and even cause disorders as depression and anxiety.
  • Social signals: There is a series of negative stereotypes that are associated with aging, and older people are classified as dependent, unproductive, complaining, inactive and slow. To this it is added that the scarcity of resources or social support obliges them, when they can not take care of themselves, to leave their home and live in the children's house, that they share their care when there are several, which forces them to change often from home (phenomenon known as'grandfather swallow'), With the disadvantages that this may imply for their quality of life. Other problems that elderly people may encounter in their daily lives are architectural barriers, the shortage of geriatricians, or being prevented from accessing certain medical treatments due to their age.
  • Economic signals: the most common are the appropriation of money and property of the older person, or use these assets or properties without their consent or by deceit, and employ subterfuge to make them sign powers, deeds or testaments that benefit the person responsible for fraud.

The rights of the elderly

The guide summarizes the guidelines that must be followed so that the elderly receive a good treatment and have the same rights and obligations as the rest of the population, regardless of their age or physical condition:

  • Treat them with education and affection, but without paternalism. They are adults, not children.
  • Respect and listen to them, taking into account their opinions and wishes.
  • Do not pressure them or hinder their decisions. They are able to decide where or how they want to live.
  • Inform them about the pathologies they suffer and the best therapeutic alternatives available in their case.
  • Be patient with their needs and the disorders associated with age, such as lack of agility, slowness to understand new situations or instructions, chronic illnesses that limit or force them to take a lot of medication or to follow special diets ...

The guide includes the different environments in which the elderly can be mistreated and discriminated against, and points out how the behavior towards them in different environments should be.

  • In the family: the elders must decide for themselves. Although family members have good intentions, they should limit themselves to giving advice or advising, but it is the interested party who should choose the option that he considers most appropriate in his case, or the one that best suits his preferences.
  • In the health center and in the hospital: All kinds of measures should be promoted that favor the physical and psychological autonomy of the elderly, and help to prevent their functional dependence.The health system should ensure that hospitals have resources adapted to geriatric patients and their specific needs.
  • In the community: society in general must value and respect older people and the role they play in the community. And also the elderly must be aware that they have the same rights and duties as the rest of their neighbors. When planning urban environments it is essential to take into account the mobility problems that people may have as they get older, and to facilitate transit and accessibility for all those who need it so that they can lead a normal life. Independent.
  • In the media: Treat the aging process as something natural, without discriminating against the elderly because of their age, and avoid using a pejorative language that serves to encourage the negative connotations often associated with old age.

Source: Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG)

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