Elder Justice

Remove the Earplugs

Will it take another 20 years?

Marie-Therese Connolly spoke before the Senate Special Committee on Aging at a hearing on Justice for All: Ending Elder Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation on March 2, 2011, one year after the Elder Justice Act was passed into law. She spoke in direct terms of what is needed to move forward in preventing Elder Abuse. Below are a few excerpts from her testimony. You can read her entire testimony here.

Last year, prosecutors in Seattle charged Christopher Wise with the murder of his mother, Ruby. His crime? Letting her rot to death with eight huge pressure sores, several to the bone, while he played Internet poker and lived off her pension. His excuse? She didn’t want to go to a nursing home or a doctor; he was just respecting her wishes.

Ruby Wise was imprisoned in her bed by immobility, dementia, and isolation. She moaned and cried out for help continuously in the weeks before her death. Neighbors closed their windows and her son put in earplugs to muffle her cries. No one called Adult Protective Services or 911. It’s hard to believe the response would have been the same had the cries come from a child, a younger woman, or a dog.

We’ve spent countless billions to extend how long we live, but relatively little to assure dignity and well-being in the years we’ve gained. Like Chris Wise, we as a nation also have been wearing earplugs. It is time that we remove them.