Working with Elder Clients at Sojourner
June 15th is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The following story is a fictional representation of a Sojourner advocate’s interaction with a client. While it is based on real experiences, it does not represent a particular client.
After ending a call with a client, a Sojourner advocate reviews their notes. A local police officer had called earlier, reporting that a man had been arrested for assaulting his 70-year-old father, Henry. A neighbor had called the police after hearing a loud argument that ended with the son pushing Henry into a table. The advocate called Henry to check on his safety, connect him with resources, and answer any questions about his rights. In talking with him, the advocate learned that this wasn’t the first time that Henry’s son had harmed him. He had also:
Used Henry’s social security benefits to pay for a new car, without permission
Kept Henry from having a phone
Threatened to keep Henry from doctors’ appointments, recently causing him to miss one
Withheld transportation, as Henry can no longer drive
When asked about his feelings about his son returning home, Henry was conflicted. He doesn’t want his son to be in jail yet isn’t sure if he will be safe once he returns. The advocate provided information about his son’s arrest, emotional support, basic safety planning and scheduled an appointment with Henry later that week to discuss options.
The National Council on Aging reports that about 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older have experienced elder abuse. Elder abuse occurs when a caregiver or family member abuses, exploits, or neglects an elder. In the story above, Henry’s son does the following:
Physical abuse: Pushing Henry
Financial abuse: Using Henry’s benefits to pay for his own expenses, like a car
Isolation: Keeping Henry from connecting with others by withholding transportation and disallowing a phone
Threats and neglect: Threatening to keep David from medical care
Henry’s story is also marked by conflicting feelings about his son and what he should do, which is common. It is normal for elders experiencing abuse from an adult child to want to continue caring for their child and connect them with resources. While these feelings are understandable, their safety and well-being is a priority.
Support for elders experiencing abuse is available at Sojourner Project. Sojourner advocates can provide free and confidential services, including connection to emergency shelter, safety planning, legal advocacy, emotional support, and community referrals. For more information about Sojourner’s services, call our 24/7 Crisis Line: 952-933-7422. Everyone deserves to be safe from violence and free from fear, regardless of age or identity.