June 14, 2016

Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Elder abuse is a topic many people don’t want to acknowledge or discuss but an open discussion can help prevent it and help those seniors who are suffering from it find assistance. The goal of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 is to further this difficult discussion.

Definition

Elder abuse refers to any action or inaction that jeopardizes the health or well-being of a senior citizen. This abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional and financial; neglect is also a form of abuse. Sometimes more than one kind of abuse happens simultaneously. In Canada, financial and emotional abuse are the two most frequently reported. Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse are not reported due to fear, cognitive impairment, lack of awareness of resources for help or other reasons.

Anyone in a position of power, trust or authority may commit abuse against seniors, including friends, neighbours, care workers or landlords, but 25% of these crimes are committed by family members. This relationship may make it especially hard for those who are abused to report these events to authorities.

Risk Factors and Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is domestic violence, and as such, it exhibits the same risk factors and signs. The risk factors include the following.

  • history of spousal abuse
  • isolation
  • troubled relationships
  • pressures of long-term caregiving
  • ageism

 The signs that abuse may be happening include the following.

  • unexplained injuries
  • hygiene changes
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • depression

Finding Help

Elder abuse is a complex issue. If you or someone you love may be or is the victim of elder abuse, help is available.

  • If the situation poses an imminent danger, call 911.
  • For information, advice or referrals, contact the Family Violence Info Line toll-free, 24-hours at 310-1818.
  • If abuse occurs to an adult who is receiving publicly funded care or support services, call the Safeguards for Vulnerable Adults Information and Reporting Line toll-free 1-888-357-9339.

For more information on preventing, identifying and reporting elder abuse, read the Government of Alberta Facts on Elder Abuse document or check out the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network.