The Dirty Little Secret of Abuse of Old People

grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

grandma got screwed, photo by ashley hill3

On Monday, June 15, nations around the world commemorated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD). Elder Abuse continues to be a significant issue in many societies as reports of mistreatment against older people is increasing.

The thought of harming an older person suggests severe dysfunction in the perpetrator, and with the plethora of local and international cases of abuse receiving public attention, governments are starting to create policies designed to institute safeguards against this type of abuse.

However, elder abuse cases remain, and with global recognition of the gravity and ubiquity of this crime, the healthcare establishment, in particular geriatric and psychology professionals have redoubled their efforts to analyze the root cause of this type of abuse while simultaneously working with law enforcement agencies and legislators to develop strategies to protect the rights of older people.

According to HelpAge International, an organization that “helps older people demand their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty,” older people’s right to be free from violence is not protected under international law. This problem is especially prevalent in East Africa where much of HelpAge's work on elder abuse is focused on, and there are a significant number of cases.

One case involves a 67-year-old woman from Kenya who was abused by a relative, an attack that resulted in the death of her 90-year-old mother. The details of the attack are very disturbing as the woman narrated the incident:

“The man slashed me on my head and I immediately fainted. I still don't know what the reason was for that kind of brutality. I am very scared. I don't sleep well. When I hear any noise I am alarmed. In my dreams I see that person following me."

The unfortunate part is that her attacker was arrested but later released on bail. While the facts about bail are unknown, this calls into question the laws of protection in the region. Relatives are known to be one of the main perpetrators of elder abuse especially as the abuse by caregivers is a worldwide and complex issue. Stresses, caregiver burden, criminal history and substance abuse among other issues are risk factors that can lead to elder mistreatment, which in turn leads to poor health. Governments can improve their law enforcement agencies as well as the quality of life of caregivers and older people.

It is encouraging to know that governments will attend the Open-ended Working Group on Aging this July and support a United Nations (UN) convention to protect older people's rights. The purpose of the working group is to strengthen the protection of older people’s human rights around the world. Hopefully, this objective will achieve great strides as inadequate research into elder abuse makes the problem difficult to tackle. This is because elder abuse is largely a hidden problem.

According to Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Advisor at HelpAge International, “elder abuse is the least studied of the different types of violence in low-income countries as stated by the Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014”. This report, produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN agencies, stated that of the 133 countries studied, two thirds do not have adult protective services to support older people.

Governments can do more to stop elder abuse and protect the rights of older people. It is vital that societies raise awareness, challenge and recognize that elder abuse and discrimination against older people are issues that deserve attention.

Contributing Journalist:  @SophieSokolo

Heroin in the Hills

twins-photo-by-james-gardner.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 07:45 p.m. DST, 11 June 2014

High School Photography, Photo by Nadja RootCINCINNATI, Ohio -- While drug abuse is a long-standing problem in the Appalachia region of the United States, the surge in heroin usage has only been recently documented and is a relatively new phenomena. Most officials attribute the influx of heroin into be rural black-market to be a response to the crackdown on the easy accessibility to prescription pain pills such as OxyContin and Percocet, which rule the drug markets in Appalachia a few years ago.

In any case, heroin usage in the region is increasing at an alarming rate. To address this shift in society, police officers, caretakers and addicts have recently started carrying Naloxone. Could this overdose antidote be the answer?

Naloxone was first introduced in the 1960s, but was often written off as a taboo idea. In the War on Drugs, often addiction is not treated as a disease, and efforts to help people with life-threatening dependencies are not seen as legitimate. Lawmakers often claim that with increased access to clean needles and overdose antidotes, people will be more likely to use the drugs in the first place.

That logic is flawed, as heroin and other serious opiate addictions are fueled by growing issues in society and the personal lives of addicts. I believe that no one in their right mind would start down the path of heroin abuse simply because free needles were offered at a clinic down the road.

Data has shown that Naloxone is very effective in saving lives that are on the brink of overdose. Just last week, two police officers were able to revive a woman who was overdosing on the Staten Island bridge in New York. Examples of the drug's effectiveness are seen nationwide. It is an important tool in the fight against heroin and morphine related deaths.

Al Jazeera is now reporting about an interesting dynamic within the small-town America plight of heroin abuse. Cincinnati, Ohio has long been a hub of powerful painkillers, previously pills and now heroin. Neighboring Kentucky is home to some of the highest opiate overdose rates in America. Both of these Appalachian states are passing laws to help those afflicted with drug dependency. Kentucky has increased pedestrian access to Naloxone and offered amnesty to those who need medical treatment after a heroin overdose. Ohio has gone one step further, allowing those people are not users themselves to carry Naloxone, in the hopes they can administer to loved ones in a time of need. Other people distribute the antidote to churches or other religious networks in order to address the growing problem.

Approximately five people die from opiate overdoses every day in Ohio. The problem in Kentucky is slightly worse, with an estimated three overdoses overdose fatalities each day. The problem spans from cities such as Dayton and Cincinnati, to some of the most rural areas in modern America including many communities in Kentucky.

In the last 20 years, approximately 10,000 people have been brought back to life using the prescription Naloxone. While Ohio's efforts seem to be helping many people living with drug dependency, the difference in laws between Ohio and Kentucky are also encouraging people to cross over the Ohio river in order to score drugs in Ohio. Kentucky will often hold alleged heroin users in jail for months before their trial, while Ohio does not. Therefore, the Ohio initiative has created a dynamic where nearby addicts flock to cities like Cincinnati.

There is hope for the growing problem of heroin trafficking and addiction. Project Lazarus, for instance, is a multi-faceted nonprofit organization that is challenging the growing virus. Using a multifaceted approach that reaches out to those people at high risk of overdose, overdose survivors, various community organizations, doctors, nurses, police, and policymakers, Project Lazarus educates communities and healthcare workers, and helps users practice damage control by giving them the antidotes and tools they need in order to live a healthier life. The issues of heroin dependency throughout the country are indisputable, and I believe that it is both cynical and defeatist to condemn those who are trying to help people in need.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

The Thievery of McDonald's Execs

mcdonalds-protester-boulder-colorado-photo-by-by-chris-goodwin.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 04:35 a.m. DST, 22 May 2014

Protesters at McDonald's, Photo by Phil Dragash

OAK BROOK, Illinois -- Yesterday, 21 May 2014, over 1,000 people protested against the McDonald's corporation at their corporate headquarters, located in suburban Chicago. The peaceful demonstration was the second attempt to bring attention to wage inequality in the internationally known, globally recognized food chain.

The localized protests are part of a larger international campaign to raise awareness of poverty wages and the role that fast-food giants play in the servitude.

The movement is taking place throughout 33 different countries, where McDonald's and other restaurant "whoppers" like Burger King, KFC and Wendy's have uniquely tailored menus and strong market footholds. Hundreds of McDonald's employees came to the rally in Oak Brook wearing their uniforms, some of whom boycotted shifts to participate.

The concept of a wage hike is nothing new to CEO Donald Thomson, whose earnings have seen a steady appreciation in recent years. He is expecting to earn $9.5 million next year. While executives count their pay increases in the hundreds of thousands, the average hands in the assembly line bring home a paycheck that is not even consistent with inflation.

Over 100 McDonald's employees were arrested and over 30 union members and spiritual leaders are in police custody after demonstrators occupied campus buildings yesterday. Headed by organizations such as Fast Food Forward and Service Employees International Union, the collective was relatively small but extremely vocal. The action was purposefully orchestrated one day before an important shareholder meeting, scheduled for today, 22 May, at the corporate offices. In anticipation, an entire branch of campus was encouraged to stay home and work remotely yesterday.

The day before the annual meeting proved to be an excellent platform for the collected grievances. Those with partial ownership of McDonald's will weigh in on Thomson's salary during the shareholder's meeting. His pay is over 600 times that of his average foodservice employee, which is not totally surprising. McDonald's is famous for their minuscule raise policies. They also supplement profits with various forms of wage theft.

These Illinois protests are just one voice in an international chorus of dissent. The similarities between Japanese, Indian and Brazilian strikes shows the vast subjugation that sustains the American-based restaurant machine.

In the past year, business tycoons and politicians have been critical of demands to raise the minimum wage in the United States. In the same vein, critics of the striking employees are calling the terms of the demonstration absurd.  But, even the twofold increase to $15-an-hour would be below the living wage in the US, according to a breakdown by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT Living Wage Calculator indicates the severity of the poverty that fast-food employees almost necessarily face. At $7.25-an-hour, an individual making minimum wage in New Orleans, Louisiana is earning well under the regional living wage of $10.51. In an expensive city like Washington, D.C. the minimum wage is set at $8.25. But the living wage for a one parent, one child household is $26.37, according to MIT statistics. The average McDonald's worker supporting one child in the District is not making even a third of the baseline living wage.

Notably, research indicates that more women are pigeonholed into poverty wages than male coworkers.

Opponents of the measure claim that increased wages will cause a decreased number of jobs. And by simple arithmetic, this may be true.

But so often, the rhetoric of corporate employers follows the notion that the company is creating job opportunities as if some sort of charity. Obviously, a business is not going to extend a job at the expense of the bottom line.

In reality, it is a give-and-take, as the corporation is only viable with hard-working men and women on the ground, and people need opportunities to make money. With McDonald's' lobbying effort to paralyze the minimum wage, and their ban on unions, the ideal "give-and-take" is actually veiled exploitation.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Bagmati River Slum Razed

kathmandu-nepal-little-girl-in-slum-by-bagmati-river-photo-by-the-advocacy-project.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 18:19 PM EDT, 10 May 2012

Slum Children, Kathmandu, Nepal, Photo by Takayuki ShiraiwaKATHMANDU, Nepal – Wednesday, 8 May 2012, was a day of great disruption and equal measure of sorrow for the residents of the shanty town at UN Park in the Thapathali area in Kathmandu. Most of the make-shift neighborhood encompassed an area 400-metre long, running from the Bagmati Bridge to Buddhanagar.

The poorest of the poor had built a shanty town on the banks of the Bagmati River where between 1,300 and 1,500 residents raised families and eked out a living by shifting through the rubbish discarded by more affluent Nepalese.

This is not the first time that their lean-to houses with corrugated steel roofs have been razed to the ground. As in the past, the government initiated the of residents of this and other slums around the area, leaving them with no recourse or options and no place to go.

Many residents cried, some screamed angry epithets, others threw stones, and then some just sat in resigned silence as a total of 251 houses were demolished by security personnel from various government agencies. In the past, the residents quickly rebuilt their dwellings, but this time may be different as certain elements in the government are pushing for the permanent eradication of this "public blight."

According to news sources “The government, in a show of force, dispatched 2,200 security personnel from Nepal Police (NP), the Armed Police Force (APF) and the City Police. The joint force led by SSP Jay Bahadur Chand from the NP and SP Sanjay Rana from the APF used four bulldozers to bring down the houses. “

Beyond the loss of their dwellings, possessions, and food, many of the residents were upset by the callous and inhumane treatment they were subjected to by the soldiers and police. Some were able to salvage their meager belongings, but most of their possessions which were viewed as trash, were bulldozed under with the rest of the buildings.

There are many countries in emerging markets in which governments face overwhelming social and financial challenges as well as corruption. As a consequence, the provision of a safety net via social services for their most vulnerable citizens is relegated to a low or non-existent priority.

The complaint by many residents of the Bagmati shanty town, was that the government failed to provide shelter for homeless people prior to them building these residences for themselves. Additionally, they complained that before their eviction, they were given insufficient notice and no offer of alternative options for housing. Not only do these residents have no place to go, they have no food, no water, and now no hope.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias