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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A personal opinion on Elder Abuse Complexity and Stigmatization of Daughters-in-law in India. By Swapna Kishore.

Swapna Kishore (former family caregiver, founder of the Dementia Care Notes website and trainer in dementia care, Bangalore).

"Elder abuse is frightening and definitely needs to be studied and addressed comprehensively. It is wrong. It needs to be stopped, and elders need ways to reach out and report their problems and get support.

But I think it is simplistic to just quote statistics that portray daughters-in-law as the main perpetrators of such abuse because all it does is that it reinforces the image of daughters-in-law as evil outsiders failing their duty.

We all know that daughters-in-law are often not accepted as part of the family; they are perpetually treated as outsiders. We all know of daughters-in-law getting abused verbally and physically by parents-in-law, deprived of food and liberty, suppressed, harassed because they are from another house, and perhaps another caste or region, or not bringing enough dowry. Yes, there is silence about elder abuse, and that silence needs to end.

But we cannot afford to remain silent about the abuse that seniors in a family do when they are are in authority and not yet old and frail and dependent (all through those years, daughters-in-law are told to swallow insults and abuse because they are younger and have a "duty").

If we want to establish/ support a family system that is congenial to elder support and if are serious about senior welfare, we must look for ways to strengthen family ties early enough so that the family that lives together is bound by affection and mutual respect across years of living together. No abuse should be tolerated, whether that of an elder or that of a younger person."

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