By Taylor Partusch, Caitlin Gerdes, Keenan Roth, Vanessa Sandoval-Lopez, Kazandra Valadez
Aging in families has been a growing issue in the US. Specifically in Omaha, families with elders adapt to many challenges. In the coming years, the amount of elderly people is going to drastically increase. In this study, the information is gathered from Omaha World Herald articles and aging office websites based in Omaha. In this data, there are many ways in which different variables affect aging in families, such as elder abuse, stereotypes and discrimination, financial challenges, retirement, and resources. The research based in Omaha connects to sociological research conducted around the world.
In this project, the five main themes discussed will be elder abuse, stereotypes and discrimination, financial challenges, retirement, and resources. We collected the data for these themes from Omaha World Herald articles and office websites in the state of Nebraska. In our search, we used key words such as ageism, elder abuse, challenges for elders, and sandwich generation. We specifically looked at articles from the past 15 years. We found 9 informational articles from the World Herald. We researched office websites in the area such as the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging and Care Consultants for the Aging and looked through their various information to assist us.
Theme 1: Elder Abuse
Subpoint 1: Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is an under recognized problem; it is a global problem, and no society is immune to it. Specifically, in Omaha, elders experience different kinds of abuse that include physical, psychological, financial, and the abuse of being neglected. A few case studies in the Omaha Area illustrate the severity of the elderly community being victims of different types of abuse. In an article entitled House Airs Abuse of Elderly it explained how an elderly woman was assaulted and beaten by her abuser over a dozen times. Within the same article, an elderly man was scammed into signing papers that gave away his 40-acre orange grove land and essentially everything he owned to his abuser. According to the article Elderly are Exploited by People They Need the writer Bob Glissmann states, within the Omaha metro physical, sexual, psychological, mental, and emotional elder abuse account for 51% and financial abuse accounts for 41% (Glissman 2009). There are different theories as to why elders are victims of abuse and those mentioned in the scholarly article “Theories and Measures of Elder Abuse” include social exchange, social learning, and symbolic interactionism. According to the article mentioned above when discussing social exchange theory, “elder abuse may occur because of the victim’s dependence on the abuser and vice versa.” To further elaborate, this concept states that caregivers see taking care of an elder as a burden, so they believe they should be receiving benefits when taking care of an elder; when the elder does not give those benefits, than he/she is more likely to be abused by the caregiver. The same article states “Social learning theory postulates that violence is a learned behavior that may be passed down from generation to generation.” For example, If parents abuse their kids, when the roles change and now the kids must care for of their parents, the kids are more likely to abuse them for revenge in a sense. Also, if the caregiver is dealing with mental issues than they are more likely to think that violence is an acceptable way to deal with taking care of the elderly. Social Learning theory also states that culture highly influences how a person sees elder abuse, so exposure to the idea that women are weaker than men leads to believe that older women are more likely to be abused than older man because woman are seen to have less power. The same article states “According to symbolic interactionism theory, every object has different meaning to each person, and everyone has his or her own way to find meaning.” In other words, culture highly influences how a person defines what elder abuse is. For example, in some places putting loved ones in a nursing home is said to be elder abuse while in other places that seems to be the best way to go.
Subpoint 2: Types of abusers
In the Omaha Case study mentioned above about the elderly woman who was a victim of physical abuse, the abuser was her 36-year-old grandson. The case study of the elderly man who was financially abused was abused by a relative he trusted. According to the Article entitled Elderly Abuse May be Big Problem within the Omaha metro “Abusers were most frequently adult children of the abused, although spouses, grandchildren and other relatives appear to abuse the elderly nearly as often.” Unfortunately, many of the abusers are blood related because as mentioned before caregivers, especially family members, think of caring for an elder as a burden, which can lead to abuse.
Subpoint 3: Warning Signs
According to the Speak Up! Help Prevent Elder Abuse Article published in the Omaha Star, “The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is asking Nebraskans to speak up and help make Nebraska free of elder abuse.” The article mentions some common warning signs that point to elder abuse which include unexplained bruise, sprained or broken bones (physical injuries), changes in behavior, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, sudden loss of weight, or missing belongings like dentures, and glasses. Elders are someone’s family. They are someone’s son or daughter. They are citizens and most importantly, they are human beings. Nobody deserves to be a victim of abuse, and just because the elderly are frail and vulnerable does not mean they should be easy targets
Theme 2: Prevalence of Elderly Stereotypes/Discrimination in Omaha
Everywhere in the world, and specifically in the city of Omaha, there are many stereotypes that falsely define the elderly community. Stereotypes then lead to discrimination and an overall misunderstanding of the elderly community. In Omaha specifically this is seen on an everyday basis and very casually.
Specifically in Omaha
According to many sources, and most everyone’s ideas of what an old person is, the elderly are supposed to be physically and mentally slow, and most handicaps of the elderly are physical just because of old age. According to Image of Age Not Bad, an article written by Dr. Harman of University of Nebraska Medical Center, the idea that the physical decline of the elderly is due to boredom is wrong, it is just due to the fact that people are getting older. (Harman) Another article called Gray Panther talks about a group called the Gray Panther group, who work in Nebraska to break down the social barrier between the younger millennial aged people and the baby boomer aged people. (Glissmann, 2009) They are fighting the stereotype against older people that assumes that they cannot get along with millennials or share ideas with them. That is what this group is trying to eliminate in Nebraska, and they are finding common ground together. Specifically in Omaha, there are many groups similar to this that work to educate others on elderly stereotypes and give the elderly a safe place to turn to, such as the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging (ENOA).
According to the scholarly journal article The Public Policies We Need to Redress Ageism, In our nation, not every person will be a victim of racism. Not every person will be a victim of sexism. However, virtually everyone will have the chance to be a victim of ageism. (Blancato, 2015) Elders in Omaha are constantly being discriminated against. According to the previous source, “Older adults who want to work but are unable to get jobs also are victims of discrimination.” (Blancato, 2015) Many employers tend to ignore their older employees when it comes to advancing training, and that is age discrimination because they are assuming that they will not be able to handle it due to their age. Excluding older employees from these opportunities just for their age is discrimination, and assuming that they can’t handle the work because of their age is a stereotype. Another example of a stereotype that older people face is that they are weak. When it comes to the topic of financial abuse, that also stems from a stereotype about the elderly that they are too old to notice a change in their finances. People assume that older people do not pay as much attention to their bank account or what may be happening, and they take advantage of them.
How Stereotypes Affect the Elderly’s Self-Confidence
There are also many negative thoughts that go through elderly people’s heads. They have stereotypes about themselves and other elderly persons engraved in their brains. They may think that they did something too slow or since they can’t bend down like they used to, that all of the stereotypes are right. The stereotypes made up by others affect the elderly’s self-perception, and that is not fair to them. They cannot help what is happening to them, and whether people want to accept it or not it will eventually happen to them as well. The stereotypes about current elders also affects the young people right now, since those stereotypes will always be in their head even when they grow old, affecting their self-perception as they age too. Stereotypes come full-circle and never make anything better for anyone. Ageism, the stereotyping and discrimination of someone due to their age, should be addressed more and with more significance.
Theme 3: Financial Challenges
There are many challenges that anybody can face under any kind of circumstances. Especially, the elders here in the United States. Elders go without the proper care that they need because of financial challenges that they face. There are many elders who do not make ends meet and go without necessities because they were financially abused. The following will provide examples of why the elderly are getting financially abuse and who is abusing the elderly here in Omaha, Nebraska.
Subpoint 1: Overlook on Financial Abuse
According to an article, “The complexities of elder abuse,” by Karen Roberto, Roberto mentions the many cases of elders being financially abused. She also explains how it is one of the top abuses that are reported in the United States (Roberto 2016). Elders are being financially abused by the families that they are living with, the elderly are getting robbed by their caregiver, or even their spouse abuses them financially.
Many reasons why elders around the world are getting abused financially are because the family that they live with believe that it is still the elders priority to provide for the rest of the family. Studying the various cases they were able to conclude that when the families that had more individuals under one household they would use whatever income that the elderly would receive and use it towards food to be able to provide food for the whole house. In these situations, the number one reason that elderly do not notify authorities about their situation is because they are scared that the family that they are living with is going to send them to a nursing home.
Comparably, when the caregivers are exploiting the elderly. The elder is afraid to report the abuse because they think that the caregiver will get mad and send them somewhere else. Not only is that the only thing that occurs in situations as these but it also leads to their caregiver to get upset and to abuse the elder physically.
Because these elders are getting their money taken away from them, when there are necessities that they need to buy come into play they do not have enough money to buy them. In other cases, for example, some of these people do not have enough money to receive the proper medical care that they need because they have no money.
There are many other ways that elders are being financially abused around the United States for we can raise the awareness here in Omaha, Nebraska.
Fortunately, there are programs that are provided by the government that helps many of elders like Medicaid and Medicare. Resources are available for elderly like, http://enoa.org which is a website where they provide tons of information on how they help elders here in eastern Nebraska. The website provides information on how to apply for Medicaid to ensure that they are receiving the proper care that they need. There are other resources that are offered for our elderly that are being financially abused here in Omaha, Nebraska because out of all kinds of abuses that occur to different age groups of people financial abuse in elderly is a big problem that occurs and goes unattended.
Theme 4: Retirement
Retirement can cause elderly to go through several different obstacles. It can be stressful and can lead to problems. In the past, retirement used to be forced at 65, but changes have been made, making forced retirement illegal. “After all, the Constitution requires that we strike “race” or “religion” from public documents…..But nobody should be forcibly rendered unemployed” (Comfort,1972). This article was made before forced retirement, due to congress abolishing mandatory retirement in 1986. It was a main problem that retired men and women faced in the 1970s. This type of ageism was fortunately removed from society legislatively but many things happen behind closed doors to elderly. For example, elderly lose their jobs for other apparent apparent reasons but in reality it’s due to age. Also, when being pushed and worked severely where they are forced to quit causes issues too. Around 20,000 cases involving employment ageism happen annually. Unforced retirement had lead elderly to work significantly longer though. 19% of people over 65 work in this day in age due to being bored and needing extra money to support themselves. That’s why for example, why the age for medicaid has increased to age 67 if you were born before the 1960s.
Retirees also can go through many mental health problems. Working for many years and then retiring can cause depression, because they leave something that they’ve been doing for 40 plus years. More elders getting involved in the community can change their attitudes toward retirement. Instead of feeling depressed and empty, they now have the opportunity to get involved in the community. Getting involved in the community after you retire leads to a positive and healthy lifestyle (Johnson 2013). The act of ageism in society has caused to make elders less involved in their communities. With elders having the ability to get more involved, can lead to positive aging, which means, not worrying about the aging process and more of enjoying life till the end (Johnson 2013).
Theme 5: Resources
On a state, national, and international level, resources are made available for elders with a main goal of helping them to embrace an independent and comfortable lifestyle. In Omaha, there are many programs put in place through offices and agencies to be a guide for elders across Nebraska. For example, the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging (enoa.org) provides programs that help with transitions, medicaid waivers, care management, medical equipment, meals on wheels, senior centers, personal care services, and many more. Not only do these resources provide helpful information for older adults and their caregivers, but they provide services unique to the individual and the community they live in.
Another resource available in Nebraska specifically is the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services which can be directed towards seniors and aging. This resource provides services for topics such as abuse and neglect, coping and support, food services, home health, hospice, medicare/medicaid, transportation, and more. The Nebraska DHHS also provides facility listings for housing. The Nebraska DHHS is a more large scale resource that covers a multitude of services, but is still extremely helpful for those older adults seeking assistance through services for basic and more complex needs.
A third resource called Care Consultants for the Aging is a more specific tool to help older adults find caregivers or refer them to caregivers in the area. This is especially helpful for those who struggle to find family members or close friends to care for them or for people who have been victims of elder abuse by caregivers. It is important that the aging feel like they can find a caregiver that is safe, trustworthy, and helpful in their everyday life. This resource can also be for the adult children of a parent who needs services. Sometimes this “sandwich generation”, or generation of adults who are obligated to care for their own children as well as their parents, have no choice but to find another caregiver for their aging parents when life gets busy. This resource is a way for them to feel good about leaving their loved ones in other hands.
There are many other agencies and offices across Nebraska that cover other regions of the state as well as resources for the aging with disabilities available. While some may be more helpful than others, it is still important to note that older adults are given many services in their areas to help them achieve personal goals and care. While this rapidly increasing population of elders continues to grow as the “Baby Boomer” generation reaches their 60’s and 70’s, these resources are going to be more needed than ever before. And, with issues emerging such as elder abuse, financial challenges, stereotypes, and Social Security/Retirement, it is essential that older adults get the help they need to overcome these challenges and live a happy and independent lifestyle.
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Blancato, R. B., & Ponder, M. (2015). The public policies we need to redress ageism.Generations, 39(3), 91-95. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/docview/1750054738?accountid=14692
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Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging http://www.enoa.org
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Aging dhhs.ne.gov
Care Consultants for the Aging http://www.careconsultants.com