Hyderabad: A new study has revealed that 62.1 percent of elders have felt that the risk of getting abused has increased during Covid 19.
Titled `The Silent Tormentor: Covid 19 and the elderly', the HelpAge India study has revealed shocking details about the impact of a pandemic on senior citizens.
The report unraveled some of the deep-seated fears the country's elders face. It delved into the lives of elders living in the 'Household' settings and those living in 'Old Age Homes' and assessed the impact and challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic on their lives. It examined the whole new culture of 'work from home' of family caregivers and its implications. It also probed the concerns of Caregivers in both settings to understand their behavior and circumstances.
The survey with a sample size of 3526 respondents was conducted across 6 major Tier 1 cities -- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai.
43.1 percent of elders said that abuse is prevalent in society. Around 15.6 percent said they are victims of abuse. Disrespect (45.6percent) and beating /slapping (23.1percent) were the main forms of abuse. 62.1 percent felt that during Covid19 the risk of getting abused has increased. The main abusers were son (43.8 percent) and daughter-in-law (27.8 percent). Surprisingly, 14.2 percent said that their abusers were their daughters. On a ranking basis - Emotional abuse (60.1 percent) was the main form of abuse followed by financial abuse (61.6percent) and physical abuse (58.6percent).
Another major concern was the increasing financial dependency elders had on others, with 41.1 percent of elders being dependent on their family members, 70.2 percent of them belonged to the age group of 80 – 89 years. Covid hugely impacted the income stream of the elderly with 52.2 percent saying that their income has been impacted. Loss of job (34.9 percent) & pay cut (30.2 percent) of the family members being the top reasons.
Inhibiting health conditions made it harder for elders to cope during the pandemic with 52.4 percent of elders having joint pains, the most predominant health condition. 44.9 percent had difficulty in walking, while 24.4 percent had poor eyesight and 13.8 percent had problems remembering or suffering from lack of concentration, which restricted their overall well-being. It was heartening to see that 77.5 percent of elders were aware of Covid appropriate behavior to avoid getting affected.
While 58.2 percent of elders were aware that a vaccine had been developed, 41.8 percent were not aware that any vaccine has been developed. Of those aware, 78.7 percent of elders felt that getting vaccinated was really important. It was heartening to see that 66.6 percent of elders had got at least one dose of their vaccination, though gaps remain, as 39.4 percent of elders had not.
What was disturbing was the misinformation about vaccination that most elders had, of those aware of the Covid 19 vaccine, 61.2 percent of elders felt that they will be completely immune to the disease after taking the vaccination. This not only will urge them to throw caution to the wind, but also, put those around them susceptible to the virus if Covid appropriate behavior is not followed.
The informal household setting brought out some stark realities
Around 58.6 percent elderly had family members who 'worked/ studied from home'. Despite living in such close proximity throughout the day, 20.5 percent of elders wanted someone to just be with them, and 35.7 percent of elders wanted some to just call them to talk, while 13.7 percent felt trapped and frustrated.
Around 20.8 percent of elders had lost either their family members or friends due to Covid19. Of these, when asked what could have been done better to save their lives, the majority, 50.8 percent elders, said a better medical / health infrastructure, 44.4 percent said availability of vaccines, and 38.7 percent said availability of medicines & injections on time. 42.1 percent of elders were most worried about being hospitalized if they were Covid affected, and 34.2percent were worried about being isolated. 11.5 percent had the 'fear of dying'
"We received more than 1000 calls to our Elder Helpline relating to elder abuse, violence, and disputes in the second wave, an increase of 18 percent from the first. The helpline received almost 20,000 calls in total in the second wave, a 36 percent increase since the first, with calls about counseling increasing by 111percent and requests for income support by 54 percent. This is the reality we are living in today, Covid 19 has taken the primary role of the Abuser, affecting elders in the worst way possible, from all corners," said Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Mission Head – Age care, HelpAge India.