Dewdrop Foundation Launches 0700DEWCARE Hotline

The coronavirus is the worst public health crisis to have hit the world in a century and older persons are more susceptible to the virus than any other age group. Medical experts have maintained that older adults are at significant risk because of many ailments commonly associated with ageing

Though the most affected age group in Nigeria is between 31 to 40, about 70 per cent of fatalities were persons over 60 years of age, according to data from Nigeria’s infectious disease control outfit, NCDC.

The report also showed a very high rate of mortality among ages 41- 50 and 51-60.

Ages 61-70: Male-188 infected with three deaths; female – 52 infected with four deaths.

Age 70 plus: Male – 74 infected with 12 deaths; female – 33 infected with five deaths. Highest rate of mortality – comparable to global data,” 

“Ages 41-50: Male – 570 infected with 15 deaths; female — 206 infected with four deaths.

“Ages 51-60: Male — 364 infected with 27 deaths; female — I48 infected with three deaths,” it said.

It is therefore important for elders to be properly taken care of while the virus is still around. This implies that all their family members and caregivers should take adequate precautions to ensure they do not expose their older ones to the virus.

Certain misunderstood ailments in older persons

WHO estimates that 15.7% of people 60 years and older are subjected to abuse. These prevalence rates are likely to be underestimated as many cases of elder abuse are not reported. In Nigeria, people in villages are largely unaware of the causes of age-induced ailments/disability caused by memory loss, especially Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which makes people “act strange” and are often labelled witches (in the case of women).

Elder Abuse

According to the UN, “Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world. Around 4 to 6% of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. Elder maltreatment can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences”.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be Physical, Psychological/emotional, Financial/material, Sexual abuse or Neglect and abandonment. In a 2019 survey conducted by Center for Gender Economics  (CGE Africa) on the rate of elder abuse in South East Nigeria, using Enugu State as a pilot, the findings were that elder abuse was mostly perpetrated by family members of close acquaintances of the elders. The 101 elders that were interviewed had experienced all the types of abuse and most of those who were sexually abused were raped!

According to the CGE report, “the prevalence rates of abuse establish that nearly 3 in 10 older persons across ten communities reported experiencing some form of abuse and/or neglect in the past twelve months. Emotional abuse was the most common type of abuse observed, followed by neglect, then financial abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse many  were physically abused which lead to broken bones.

Signs of elder abuse: according to the survey by the CGE Africa, the following constitute warning signs;

Physical abuse warning signs: The presence of inexplicable signs of injuries on the body, bone injuries, irregular use of medication, wrist scars including damaged eye frames. Another sign to watch out for is when the caregiver is uncomfortable because you are observing the elder’s body.

Emotional abuse warning signs:
Most elders that participated in the study shared that once their caregivers start being mean or overly controlling, they tend to break the cycle by no longer asking them for help and thereby slipping into depression and self-neglect. This can lead to mental and physical health problems that leave elders malnourished, experiencing unusual weight loss, with bed sores, dehydration and unsanitary living condition. This ends up leading to serious illness and ultimately death.

Sexual abuse warning signs:
This is one of the worst kinds of abuse because it is very hard for sexually abused elders to share that traumatic experience. Some of our study participants that have experienced it told us how demeaning they felt when they eventually shared it with either their children or health professionals.

Elder neglect or self-neglect warning signs:
The Red Flags of Elder neglect are unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, untreated bodily problems; such as bed sores; dirty living conditions, being left filthy; unkempt clothing or covering for the weather; insecure living conditions (no running water; broken-down electrical connections; etc.) and worst of all desertion of the elder at a public place. Elders with dementia may be at even greater risk of neglect than elders without dementia.

Financial exploitation and abuse warning signs:

Some of the key warning signs are: Substantial withdrawals from the elder’s accounts; impulsive fluctuations in the elder’s financial condition; things or cash missing from the elder’s home; guarded changes in wills, land titles, and deeds; adding names and signature to the elder’s bank account mandate; financial movements the elder could not have carried out, such as an ATM withdrawal.

Dewdrop Foundation intervention

To mitigate elder abuse in communities and households, Dewdrop Foundation is creating safe spaces/platforms where the elders (or Seenagers) can speak up about issues of concern to them. It is our wish that these platforms will be replicated in other communities.

Together with its partner CGE Africa, a policy brief on criminalizing elder abuse in Enugu state was presented to the governor of the state including its legislature. by July 2020, over 800 elders in Enugu have been impacted by our project.

Dewdrop Institute, we are currently offering training for caregivers, notably the Specialist curriculum for obtaining a Personal Care Services certificate in order to provide professional care services for the elderly.

Nigeria has no law catering to the comprehensive welfare of the older persons. Currently, different bills on ageing are still pending at the National Assembly.

What you can do to help: Dewdrop Foundation established a hotline which can be called to report cases of abuse of all people including elders.

The number  is 0700DEWCARE or 07003392273