A proposed law to deal with abuse of the elderly was unveiled by Japanese lawmakers on Thursday, highlighting a problem in a society where respect for seniors has traditionally been so strong there is a holiday in their honor.
The bill will require people who witness abuse of the elderly by family members or others, such as workers in care homes, to report the incidents to authorities. Although the bill provides for no penalties, it will allow authorities to investigate abuse reports and protect the victims. Abuse of the elderly, recognized as an issue in the United States and Europe in the 1980s, typically crosses all economic lines and ranges from physical and psychological abuse to neglect and economic abuse, such as appropriating savings and pensions. Japan did not release its first survey on the issue until April last year, when 1,991 cases were found. In 11 percent of cases, lives were endangered, the survey report said. Experts say the numbers are likely to be much greater and that incidences of abuse may be increasing. Others say that more cases have simply come to light since 2000 because a new law increasing the number of home care workers allowed more people into private homes, where many of Japan’s elderly are cared for by their grown children. Takao Jinnouchi, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who chairs a party panel on the issue, said the group hoped to present the bill during the current session of parliament, which ends in the middle of the year. (Source: Reuters Health: February 2005.)