Traditionally, the joint family setup in the Indian society has protected the social, financial and emotional security of the elderly in the country. However, with the emergence of nuclear families, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases of elder abuses in the country. Most of such cases go unreported, as the victims tend to be protective of their children in spite of the abuse.
There are a number of interesting insights on the psychology behind elder abuse typical to Indian families. The first typical situation is where the youngest son in the family inherits the hard earned shelter and property of the parent. Once head of the family, the father expects the same respect and care from his children as it was before handing over the baton. However, he waits endlessly for his meals to be served, and his requests and wishes are almost always ignored. This causes severe emotional distress in the elder and it often manifests in the form of depression and deteriorating health.
In a survey, two thirds of the adults encumbered with taking care of the aged parents blame their parents for not understanding their everyday problems and struggles, and almost justifies the abuse. The influence of liquor and the resulting financial and psychological crises faced by the care giver can worsen the situation further. The poor quality of living and job security issues faced by the current generation can be contributing factors to elder abuse.
The elderly, once retired from their position of being the head of the family are at the mercy of their children to whom they have handed over the responsibility. With the widening generation gap, there is little understanding between the elderly and the care givers, and the difference in views and opinions further weakens their relationships. Most often, the elders in the family are cornered and isolated in the household. With no one to talk to or share their anxiety, their physical and mental health deteriorates drastically. It is not uncommon to find ageing people talking to the walls in many households across the country.
The concern and anxiety over having to undergo the financial and physical hardship of taking care of the invalid elders, forces the sons, daughters and daughters-in-law alike to seek an escape from such responsibilities. The main factor responsible for this perspective is the lack of adequate Government policies on providing social and financial security to the ageing. Another factor is the lack of any initiative in sensitising the public about elder care, and re-instilling the traditional joint-family values in the increasingly nuclear family culture.
More than just a crime, elder abuse is also a psychological problem, and with prompt counselling, the abusive tendencies of the care giver can be resolved. There are a number of emergency helplines for the elderly, but very few initiatives to cater to the psychological and emotional well-being of the ageing population in the country. What the country needs is a governmental initiative to make psychological counselling accessible and affordable for the elderly in the country. However, there are a number of online initiatives like Insighte, which aims at connecting those requiring psychological help with the best psychotherapists and counsellors in the country.