FEATURE ARTICLE
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FROM ALWAYS BEST CARE

Seniors Bullying Seniors – A Growing Problem

by Tonja Edelman, MSW

As the number of older adults grows, it appears that bullying among seniors is becoming a national problem. When the Akron Beacon Journal hosted a call-in program about bullying in northern Ohio, the number of seniors who dialed in revealed the increasing problem. One older couple said they were trapped in their homes because of harassment from bullying neighbors. A woman in an Arizona who moved into an age-restricted community stated that she was bullied by other residents who blocked her from sitting at card tables and at the community pool.

Social workers, senior center officials, and others who work with older adults say the problem of bullying among seniors is becoming more common as the retirement population increases and more seniors enter care homes and retirement communities. While statistics are not formally tracked, it is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of older adults in senior settings experience some type of abuse from fellow residents.

As a geriatric social worker for over 18 years, I have seen bullying firsthand in older adult communities and at senior centers. It appears the mean kids that were in school are, as we get older, in some cases still around. It is unfortunate that as some adults age, they feel more vulnerable. Conversely, while some adjust positively, others may develop destructive behaviors that they take out on their peers in the form of bullying.

Many organizations involved with seniors have a "code of conduct” policy that bans yelling, obscene language, and other verbal abuse. Some programs have seniors sign a code of conduct that states that all members will be treated with consideration, respect and recognition of their dignity.

Another way to ensure that seniors are not bullied is to convey a clear expectation about what kind of behavior is appropriate and to display an all-around culture where bullying is unacceptable. According to the ombudsman coordinator in central Phoenix, ignoring bullies is a good strategy. His staff often coaches older adults on how to handle snubs and aggression by fellow residents.

"Sometimes, the best thing to do is just find someone else to have a meal with,” he said.

When researching communities, be sure to ask if the community has a policy for peer to peer bullying, and if not, encourage them to consider implementing such a policy.

Many companies, like Always Best Care Senior Services, are dedicated to the principles of dignity, respect and kindness. If you would like more information on finding a community that reflects these principles, contact a Care Coordinator at any of the individually owned and operated Always Best Care Senior Services offices located throughout the country. To find the Always Best Care office nearest you, please visit www.alwaysbestcare.com.

Tonja Edelman, MSW, is a Franchise Operations Trainer at Always Best Care Senior Services, and a former Deputy Public Conservator. Through its network of independently owned and operated franchises, Always Best Care Senior Services provides non-medical in-home care, assisted living placement and skilled home health care for seniors across the country. Visit Always Best Care Senior Services at www.alwaysbestcare.com.

Always Best Care Senior Services

Always Best Care Senior Services (www.alwaysbestcare.com/) is based on the belief that having the right people for the right level of care means peace of mind for the client and family. Always Best Care Senior Services has assisted over 25,000 seniors, representing a wide range of illnesses and personal needs. This has established the company as one of the premier providers of in-home care, assisted living placement assistance, and skilled home health care.

January, 2011

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