Let’s take a quick poll. If you could exercise with a buddy, would you be more inclined to do so? How about a walking club, would you join one? If the answer is yes, you may not have to look much further than your local senior centre.
Senior centres across the province provide a meeting place for seniors who can be at risk for social isolation, helping them stay connected to their community. Many centres also incorporate health promotion and healthy living initiatives into their programs. Senior centres are well-positioned to provide a platform for social interaction and can be a great venue for exercise programs as well. For older adults, when you combine exercise with a supportive social environment, the benefits grow exponentially.Continue reading Exercise programs are adding huge benefits to social networking at local senior centres→
Thousands of seniors around the world suffer abuse every day. In response to these growing numbers, June 15 has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and is commemorated across Canada. This Manitoba senior suffered financial abuse at the hands of her own son and wanted to share her tragic story, hoping it may help someone else.
Margaret (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) hasn’t seen her grandchildren in almost a year. Her voice strains with emotion when she talks about the betrayal and broken relationship with her only son and his family. After a lengthy legal battle that still isn’t resolved, Margaret finally regained control of her own finances, after removing the power of attorney she had given her son, but this has come at a terrible price.
“I didn’t see him on Mother’s Day. I wish he would just apologize so I could forgive him; he’s my only son. But he’s left me with nothing…” Margaret stops talking and looks away, holding her hands up to her face. Despite what he has done to her, she is still a mother who loves her son.
Margaret is one of the thousands of Canadian seniors who have suffered financial abuse at the hands of a family member. The most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse, is defined by the Winnipeg Police Service as, “any actions, with or without the knowledge and/or consent of an older adult, which results in the loss of money, property or possessions.” This, says WPS, “could include the theft of pension cheques through deceit or other forms of emotional manipulation and the misuse of power of attorney, joint bank accounts or credit cards.”
According to an overview from the Canadian Centre of Elder Law, if the abuser is an adult child, he/she may be experiencing financial problems or a recent job loss. They may also have underlying mental health or addiction issues. “The abuser may rationalize the mistreatment with a false sense of entitlement toward the senior’s money or belongings: e.g. I am the only daughter, I deserve the money.” Whatever the rationalization, the impact of abuse by a family member is devastating.
Margaret always felt responsible for her son’s economic well-being, knowing he wasn’t very good with money. He asked her to pay off his credit card debt twice and help with the mortgage so he wouldn’t lose his house. There was always a promise to pay back the money, which never came.
Margaret’s life took a turn for the worse when she lost her beloved husband 10 years ago. Living alone for the first time, she started drinking to help cope with the pain and loneliness. Her health quickly deteriorated to the point she was no longer able to care for herself. She signed power of attorney over to her son, who insisted on moving in to take care of her. After a serious fall, Margaret moved to a personal care home to receive 24-hour-a-day care while her son continued to live in her home.
It wasn’t long until things started to change with her son. He would tell Margaret there was no extra money to get her hair done or buy snacks. “Where has all my money gone?” she asked him. Indignant, he would reply that taking care of her was expensive. “He made me feel so guilty,” Margaret explained. She had worked hard during her younger years and had a good pension, savings in the bank and a line of credit. She was suspicious, but trusted her son had her best interest at heart.
Within two years, Margaret’s health improved dramatically under the excellent care of the staff at the personal care home. She was reassessed by the geriatric team and deemed ready to leave the home to live in an assisted living facility. Margaret was thrilled, as she missed her independence. Her son, however, was not. He refused to give her access to her own financial accounts and insisted she was not ready to live on her own. Margaret felt she had no choice but to remove her son as power of attorney and appoint another family member.
By the time the dust settled, she was almost destitute. He had maxed out her line of credit, drained her bank account and racked up thousands of dollars on a credit card in Margaret’s name. “It’s very hurtful you know,” she explained, her eyes welling with tears. “I would have left it all to him anyway when I was gone. Why couldn’t he just have waited?” Margaret moved into an assisted living facility in April and will return to court in a few months.
Dara Maternick, coordinator for Prevent Elder Abuse Manitoba (PEAM) said Margaret’s situation is a growing concern across the country and experts believe that for every report of elder abuse, there are another four cases that go unreported. “We want to help change that,” Dara explained. “The 633 calls to the Senior Abuse Support Line last year are probably just the tip of the iceberg.”
Since 2002, the Manitoba government has led a provincial elder abuse strategy that includes support for PEAM, a central point of contact for elder abuse prevention. PEAM partnered with the Credit Union Association of Manitoba to develop an online course for employees to help them recognize financial abuse when it happens and to respond with the appropriate help.
To date, 85 per cent of credit union employees have taken the course. “It is important for people to carefully consider and plan for how their finances will be managed as they grow older. Manitoba credit unions are now well positioned to provide knowledgeable advice to their members to help prevent these situations from occurring.”
If you or someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse of any kind, you can call the Seniors Abuse Support Line at 1-888-896-7183. You can also call the intake line at A&O: Support Services for Older Adults at 204-956-6440. They provide elder abuse support and counseling to Manitobans aged 55 and older. Concerned family and friends are also encouraged to call A&O if they need information on how to help. All calls are strictly confidential.
Balance, strong bones, neat surroundings, all keep danger at bay
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and hospitalization for older adults in Manitoba. In Canada, about one third of people aged 65 and older and half of people aged 80 years and older fall each year.
Most falls that require hospitalization occur in the home. Nearly half (44 per cent) of falls that result in an injury are caused by minor slips, trips and stumbles,while other causes include falling when going up or down stairs (26 per cent) or on ice or snow (20 per cent).
Over 75 per cent of those who fall will have a minor injury and between 13 per cent and 24 per cent will experience a serious injury, such as a fracture, dislocation or laceration. For some older adults, a fall can be fatal.
Since falls can cause serious harm, reducing the risk of falling is one of the most important tasks we can undertake. Let’s consider some ways to lower the risk of falling.
The best way to reduce the chance of falls and injury is to maintain a regular fitness program that focuses on strength training and a balance exercises. Strength training helps to maintain strong bones and muscles and balance exercises improve your ability to deal with challenges like slippery ice, uneven walking surfaces or walking in low light.
Consider mall walking for an inexpensive training option or a gym that offers aerobic exercise, weights and classes or a facility like Reh-Fit that caters to mature clients. Gyms offer all three areas of fitness including specific balance training. Yoga or tai chi classes are also a good way to improve strength and balance safely. See the www.preventfalls.ca website for a home exercise sheet and for information about exercise classes in your area .
Another way to protect yourself is keeping your bones strong. Experts now recommend that all adults should take a Vitamin D supplement of 1000 IU each day.
Try to remove obstacles in your home or outside in your yard that may increase the risk of tripping. This may include removing clutter, carpets or rugs that are not secured, and telephone or electrical cords. Be very careful on stairs, especially in the winter or slippery conditions. Have a solid rail to hold onto and do not carry things that require both hands or block your view.
Know your limitations and always consider your abilities and the safety of what you are contemplating. Ask for help when needed. Climbing a ladder to clean the eavestroughs in the rain may not be a safe practice for anyone! Consider how this might be accomplished in the safest possible way.
Wear proper footwear indoors and outdoors. Winter shoes should have non-slip soles with good grip. If using a cane, consider a spiked tip which can help on icy surfaces and be moved out of the way for indoors.
If your bones are not as strong as they once were and you have other risk factors that make you at a higher risk of falling, you may want to consider hip protectors. They are like undergarments with padding over the hips to reduce the chance of a hip fracture in a fall. These are available at health care products retailers.
The prevent falls.ca website has many resources to help you reduce falls including a “Prevent Falls Check-up” to help you identify your personal risk factors and provides information on how to reduce your risk.
The bottom line is to educate yourself and take steps to be safer so that you can stay healthy and active and enjoy a better quality of life.
Suzanne Dyck is a physiotherapist and musculoskeletal injury prevention specialist for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority at Victoria General Hospital. To support patient care at the Vic, please contact Victoria General Hospital Foundation at 204-477-3513 or online at www.thevicfoundation.ca.
I was recently asked, “A friend of mine lives in a community that calls itself Age-Friendly…what is this? Can my community become Age-Friendly, too?” I am very pleased to know there is interest in the Age-Friendly movement and I am excited to share information about Manitoba’s vision to become the most Age-Friendly province in Canada. Continue reading Spreading the word on Manitoba’s age-friendly vision→