Be on guard! An elderly person you care for could be in real need of your help.
Much has been written lately about bullying. A lot of it has been focused on bullying of children. There is another trend that falls into the same category, and that is elder abuse. Statistics Canada states that by 2031 eight million people will be more than 65 years of age in this country, and therefore the occurrence of abuse to seniors appears certain to rise if we ignore the issues.
According to the government of Canada website, seniors.gc.ca, one in five Canadians believe they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse. Usually someone whom the senior knows and trusts perpetrates the abuse. It is hard for us to comprehend how this can occur, but quite often the abuser is the senior’s own adult children.
Frailty in later years caused by weaker eyes, reduced hearing ability and other ailments can cause some seniors to lack the physical or mental clarity to stand up to their abuser. Often seniors are more trusting of people they depend on for caregiving, thereby making themselves more vulnerable, more prone to being taken advantage of. Sometimes the abuse goes on for years.
Embarrassment, and feelings of shame and stupidity for having allowed someone to take advantage of them, prevent many seniors from reporting the abuse. Also they greatly fear being punished or forced to leave their home if they tell someone. They may fear abandonment by their children or that their children will be charged with a crime.
Nobody deserves to be bullied. Vulnerable seniors need to feel safe and protected in their communities.
Seniors are abused in various ways: emotionally, physically, through neglect and/or financially. If you suspect abuse, there are signs to watch for. The following are some typical indicators that could signify abuse:
- Unexplained physical injuries.
- Poor nutrition.
- Poor hygiene.
- Fearful, anxious, passive behaviour around the abuser.
- Reluctance to talk about what is happening
- Misuse of medication.
- Sudden changes in legal documents: for example, a new will.
- An unexplained drop in cash flow, increased need for cash.
Older adults may be unaware that there are people and places that can help. We must make sure that they get this help. We have a responsibility to our seniors to provide proper care and safety. It is hard enough to be surrendering one’s life to the difficulties that come with old age without the added worry of being abused or taken advantage of.
If you need more information or have any questions about elder abuse, contact the Winnipeg Police Service community relations unit at 204-986-6322, the WPS elder abuse resource centre at 204-956-6449 or email A&O Support Services for Older Adults at email@example.com.
There is also a seniors abuse support line at 1-886-896-7183 which provides 24-hour information, referral, counseling and follow-up support.
Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood.