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DR THOMAS: This morning the Genius of Aging turns its attention to an important topic that frankly, doesn’t get talked about enough, and that’s elder abuse. And luckily, we’ve got Scott Spallina and Lei Shimizu. Thank you for coming in and talking with me about this, and you know, a lot of people don’t really understand how big a problem elder abuse is, and I know you guys are hip deep in it every day. What’s the story?
SCOTT: Well, you’re absolutely right, that this is a grossly under-reported crime.
DR. THOMAS: It’s a crime.
SCOTT: It is a crime, definitely. And that’s why the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney set up the Elder Abuse Unit to deal specifically with these crimes, focusing on victims over the age of 60 years old.
DR. THOMAS: You know, a lot of times, bad things happen, between even people who love each other. It really is a crime. In a sense, it really is domestic violence, a different kind of domestic violence. Lei, you’ve worked with this for a long time.
LEI: A lot of times it’s intergenerational transmission of family violence. You know like being a victim of child abuse, becoming a parent who’s abusive, becoming a parent or a couple who abuses each other, like spousal abuse. And then, as an elder, you are abused and neglected and maltreated because of the generation of abuse.
DR. THOMAS: Right. And we’ve got to break the cycle.
SCOTT: They say that one fifth of all elder abuse crimes happen in a family. And we’re talking about not only spouses but about adult children. In a case I was recently prosecuting in Hawaii, was an elder adult son who beat up his 69-year-old mother, because she did not clean the bathroom to his liking, and be broke her orbital bone. When the police arrived at the scene, she was forced to crawl out the window.
DR. THOMAS: Wow. I’m a geriatrician, I mean I love elders, it’s my calling in life. It makes my blood boil. It must be tough, getting through a day at work sometimes, but, even all of the details you’re dealing with, there’s a whole bunch more that’s not being reported.
SCOTT: Exactly. Elder abuse right now is where domestic violence was 30 years ago. And even now we’re having trouble convincing the public that there’s a problem with domestic violence. So, to even mention elder abuse, we’re like 30 years behind the curve. We’re trying to model our program after successful programs on the Mainland, but they’ve been working at it for over a decade.
DR. THOMAS: We will, we will catch up. I mean I am swearing. This is really important, and you know Lei, you said that a lot of times people don’t report the crime because they’re dependant on the person who’s committing the crime.
LEI: They’re dependant on their caregiver. It’s the cultural nature that we have in Hawaii, and you know that it’s shameful to say that you are abused by your son or your daughter. You know it’s just incredible…
DR. THOMAS: So neighbors, I mean I think both of you agree. Neighbors, other family members, friends, ministers, anybody should have their eyes pealed, really.
SCOTT: Exactly. And there’s that saying that what happens behind closed doors, every man’s home is his castle. That doesn’t apply to domestic violence. It does not apply to elder abuse. There’s no shame when you’re the victim of a crime. You need to get help. That’s whey the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is working with the police department, is working with Elder Affairs, is working with Adult Protective Services.
DR. THOMAS: I am so with you on this and I, you know, I’d love to see the day come when this, when the sunlight is out on the topic, people can talk about it, there’s no shame, people can report it, because quite frankly, it’s one of the great dangers people face in old age is winding up in a situation where you’re dependant on somebody who commits acts of violence or neglect against you, so…
SCOTT: Well you remember that the seniors of our community are our greatest resources. And they need the protection, they need every protection we can give them.
DR. THOMAS: I’m like so proud, I mean I want to come to your office, I want to work with you guys, I love you!
SCOTT: We’ll give you a badge.
DR. THOMAS: I’m on it.