Mrs M’s experiences
Mrs M is of Asian origin and has been the primary carer of her husband since they moved to Scotland. Her husband was diagnosed with several physical and mental health conditions which limited his physical movement, subsequently making him largely dependent on Mrs M’s care. The family’s social worker decided to contact the ME60+ project as they felt Mrs M could benefit from additional support. They observed how Mrs M was the victim of emotional and physical abuse on multiple occasions, in the form of shouting, forbiddance to speak on the phone and aggressive grabbing, but that Mrs M was unable to fully share her experiences because of the language barrier.
This case echoes the current reality in which a large proportion of older people, and women in particular, frequently encounter domestic abuse but seldom report it:
- A Safelives report from 2016 found that around 120,000 individuals aged 65+ have experienced at least one form of abuse and that victims aged over 60 are more likely to experience abuse from an adult family member as well as from a current partner.
- In 2018/19, the Age UK Advice Line received 655 enquiries relating to domestic abuse, and while both men and women suffer, domestic abuse remains a highly gendered crime as women are more likely to suffer more serious injuries than male victims.
- An earlier study found that although nondependent older women encounter physical and verbal abuse at similar or higher rates than younger women, they are less likely to report it.
It is encouraging that the domestic situation of Mrs M was identified. As well as receiving support from her social worker, the ME60+ project has been able to provide emotional support from a worker who shares the same language as herself.
The ME60+ team helped Mrs M access health assistance for her husband and herself, easing some of the caring pressure she was feeling, improving her mental well-being and reducing the likelihood of her suffering the dangerous consequences of her husband’s anger outbursts brought on by his mental health conditions.
Challenges encountered, when responding to client needs
Throughout the process of assisting Mrs M, the ME60+ team came across several challenges:
- Mrs M’s husband often shouted at her when she spoke on the phone in English, accusing her of infidelity, a common issue of domestic abuse. This often led to Mrs M having short phone conversations with her friends and feeling lonely.
- Mrs M’s husband was unhappy with her receiving caring support from other nurses, he did not want others to be aware of his medical conditions.
- Mrs M was reluctant to inform the doctor about her husband’s strange behaviour during the night in front of him; she was afraid her husband may react violently to her sharing his medical information with another person, even the doctor.
To address these barriers, the ME60+ team:
- Spoke with Mrs M in her own language. This reduced the isolation experienced by Mrs M and encouraged her to share her problems and experiences.
- Communicated Mrs M’s concerns regarding her husband’s health to the doctor on her behalf.
- Helped Mrs M secure suitable health care arrangements for her husband and for herself.
The ME60+ team achieved several successful outcomes:
- Mrs M received a special medical bed which allowed her husband to sleep better and her not to wake up so regularly during the night.
- A home-care service organisation was able to arrange an extra carer for Mrs M to assist her with her husband in the evening.
- Mrs M received a digital device equipped with unlimited data for 2 years, allowing her to communicate with her friends and family, reducing her loneliness.
These developments provided Mrs M with the caring support she needed, which in turn has granted her the respite to focus on herself and her personal needs.
Mrs M expressed on numerous occasions how happy she is to talk with the ME60+ team about her daily activities and how grateful she is for all the help provided by the team.
The FCE ME60+ project remains in contact with Mrs M to ensure she feels supported.
- Minority ethnic 60+ people will be hesitant to directly inform services about any type of abuse they experience in their family.
- Increased partnerships with domestic abuse and other harm reduction organisations are essential to ensure they consider the unique experiences of minority ethnic older people and extend further support to this group.
- One way to support minority ethnic 60+ people is to provide them with the resources necessary (be they financial, health or social) to ease the pressure they encounter at home. It is crucial to take into account the different cultural needs of the individuals involved.
- Regular communication with clients in their language remains highly important, it ensures the clients’ voices are heard and their problems are understood. It also helps build a close relation between the clients and the ME60+ team, which in turn allows them to confidently talk about their experiences and ordeals.
To learn more about the Minority Ethnic 60+ Project and to register online, visit the webpage here.