Abandonment refers to the purposeful indifference or denial of responsibility in an existing relationship. Aging parents or older adults who are part of the nuclear family are perhaps victims of abandonment in nursing homes, hospitals or even within the communities. I feel the need to appeal at the values that should have been inculcated in love and respect.
To understand the roots of abandonment and the effects we have to make a distinction about abandonment and neglect. The abandonment is a deliberate action of leaving a person that need care. While neglect is not a physical abandonment of leaving that person, but an emotional and psychological abandonment of caring less. These will include not providing the daily basis needs such as food, water, and resources according to the individual needs.
A personal and social value system will guide us to become a better society and we need to work it out. Thus, we have to raise awareness and take action in order to strengthened values toward the family. In a society that faces a continued policy changes, and social injustices among others, the ones that suffer the most are those fragile and vulnerable; our older adults and our children. As a community who cares for the old, we must place in the first place caring and giving support for the psychological and emotional well-being of our older adults. Supporting older adults through the appropriate agencies, and resources, and advocating for a better environment and psychological stability will make a difference.
Each one of us should be there giving support, and care to the older adult in the role that we belong to as a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, and brother, sister, neighbor, or any professional etc. Not only worrying about, but acting and dealing with the actual issues of care and challenges to make a better society. While we are raising and educating our children, giving them support, we are also teaching that we must also care for our older adults, and their well-being in later life. It is expected to receive support, care and love in our youth years, but should be also to receive those in turn along the life-course. This will corresponds to a life-long process, a life and love continuum that would remain imprinted in our life, our family values and our society.
The caregiving role could face burden, but instead on focusing on the amount of work and energy we should focus on the importance of been supported. This kind of support in addition is to be right and just, and should be based on love and respect for those who have worked and lived for us. A society they belong too, and that without them nothing would be the same. How many people who do not have any family ties are attentive to the needs of an older adult neighbor? We should feel not only this is a moral duty, but a gesture of respect, love and care for another human being in need.
In eastern countries, old age is traditionally interpreted as a virtue, which is celebrated and respected. Isn't that right? Should we value also those traditions as a matter of what is right? According to the World Health Organization (2016)-‘the aging of the population can be considered a success of the policies of the public health and development, which is a challenge for the society that must adapt to this'. The WHO also predicts that by 2050, the number of elderly who cannot fend for itself will 'multiplied by four in developing countries". The need to create awareness in general should be one that is born from the nuclear family. Lack of respect for the individual rights, have created a widening gap between the family’s support system. Families have been broken up their nuclear support, either by social, emotional and economic causes, neglecting and abandoning their responsibilities avoiding to become this a better society. And no matter what, the elder abandonment and neglect in fact corresponds to abuse which 'constitutes a violation of the human rights', and includes not only the physical abuse, but the psychological and emotional.
It is important as a society who cares for the old to inculcate the values, concepts of family, and see this time as one of change in a positive way to create impact for the future. Interacting with our senior citizens, improving their living conditions, and assisting to find the adequate resources for their best interest will make a big change. After all, why we are in this world? But to live this life and our achievements together with our loved ones. The material and economic gain remains here, but what lasts forever is printed in our heart and soul. Let us learn from our mistakes, difficulties and the experiences of life, and become better human beings. Don't forget our seniors!
Carla Narvaez, MD, is currently a graduate student at Concordia University, Chicago, pursuing specialized studies in gerontology that will complement her medical practice. Her research includes spirituality, resilience, service utilization and the role of caregivers with older adults.