Vile is not often used to describe things in Barbados. In fact, for the most part, it is reserved for abominable acts such as that we witnessed in horror making the rounds on social media this week
The scenes of abuse in the video showing a helpless 84-year-old being kicked, beaten and insulted triggered rage –– and justifiably so. For a country that can boast of the longevity of its citizens –– producing centenarians virtually every week –– elderly abuse is inconceivable.
Yet it happens, as brought to light by this disturbing episode.
Elderly abuse and neglect are crimes which too often go unreported, leaving their helpless victims to suffer silently in agony. We are left to wonder how many?
Barbados must not tolerate such despicable behaviour. For it is well established that the moral fabric of any society may be measured by two yardsticks: the quality of care and protection it provides to two groups –– children and the elderly.
The Barbadian society has traditionally embraced family values, including the concept of the extended family, that treasure grandparents who pass on the morals and standards the younger generation need to become productive members of society.
It is with thanks to the elderly that we have what we do, and live free in this country, benefiting from quality education, free health care and all the other amenities we take for granted. Hence our seniors’ golden years should not be tarnished by abuse, neglect and exploitation.
It takes a depraved person to hurt a vulnerable individual and treat someone so inhumanely, and those who cross the line by abusing the elderly should face the appropriate penalty. The message must be clear that anyone who abuses the elderly may expect the wrath of the country’s criminal justice system. It is the duty of the court to see to that.
But let this be a wake-up call on all fronts. Vigilant as we are about child abuse and domestic violence, let us not turn any blind eye to elderly assault.
Far too often, families are quick to abandon their elderly relatives at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, or other Government facilities. We have a duty to care for those who cared for us from the cradle to adulthood. It is not the Government’s job, or the responsibility of others.
To those who make a business of caring for these defenceless members of society, greater attention must be paid to those we choose to employ. A certificate or a degree must not be the only qualification for those entrusted to perform the noble task of nursing.
The Government too must step up its viligance, and guarantee that proper regulations are in place to ensure both private and public homes for the elderly are delivering on promises to provide only the best care for patients. Strong preventative laws to deter those who might be tempted to lapse from their duty must buttress all this.
Authorities must also see to it existing health and social services network to ensure housing, financial and social support are in place for the aged.
Furthermore, society as a whole must show greater respect for seniors. How many times have we seen some people lose patience with, or treat poorly, an elderly
man or woman who doesn’t hear well? How many us of leave them standing in the bus without offering a seat, or lending a helping hand to cross the road. We must do better!
Barbados cannot allow cases like Jasmine Hall’s. Not only because everyone deserves to live a dignified life, but because failure to act will only result in all of us fortunate enough to reach those golden years in the not-too-distant future facing the very treatment we abhor.