Reporting elder abuse crucial
By Elizabeth Bate
Bob Stinson has heard some sad stories. The chairman of the Haliburton chapter of CARP said he established the local advocacy group to help give a voice to seniors who need it, like those suffering from elder abuse.
June 15 was named World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to create a discussion about seniors in abusive, isolated, or neglected situations.
Raeann Rideout, regional consultant with Elder Abuse Ontario, estimates that between two and 10 per cent of seniors will suffer from abuse or neglect. Rideout said the number of seniors affected can be hard to determine because not every case is reported.
“There’s no real system set up in terms of data collection,” said Rideout. “It’s only the reported cases we hear about.”
Stinson said friends and neighbours witnessing abuse may hesitate to report it for fear of repercussions on both the victim and themselves.
“If the government wants people to report these situations, they need to provide protection,” he said.
Karen Anderson, elder abuse services co-ordinator for Community Care in the City of Kawartha Lakes, says that if treatment of a senior is uncomfortable to watch or hear, it should be reported.
“Don’t keep it to yourself just because you think it might make it worse,” she said. “Statistics show elder abuse will always escalate over time if it’s not stopped.”
Confusion around which agency might best serve a senior in crisis can also hinder reporting, however Rideout says that’s where she comes in.
Guiding seniors and other concerned to the appropriate agencies to report cases of abuse or seek help when a senior can no longer care for herself is Rideout’s job, one she hopes will become less necessary as awareness about elder abuse grows.
“It’s about promoting dignity and respect,” she said.
Anderson no longer covers the Haliburton area, but is working with the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes elder abuse prevention network to bring an event to the area in October to educate seniors and the public on what types of community services are available to them and when an intervention may be required.
Types of elder abuse can range from financial, which account for about 49 per cent of cases, to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, or even neglect. Neglect can happen when a caregiver fails to provide the necessities of life to a senior in his care, or when a senior who is isolated from family and friends cannot care for himself and cannot reach out for help.
Nearly 60 cases of elder abuse were reported to Anderson in 2014, 15 of those in the Haliburton area.
That number is predominately females and seniors living at home, with health practitioners and service agencies being the largest reporters.
The suspected abuser is an adult child or other family member in 55 per cent of cases.
Anderson says there is a rise in neglect and self neglect, with as many as 15 per cent of reported cases being attributed to neglect. Anderson attributes the rise to families that are scattered and not able to check in on loved ones as often.
Stinson hopes his group can help alleviate the growing problem of isolation in addition to tackling another challenge facing area seniors.
“Our biggest concern is housing for seniors,” he said.
CARP is working with the Haliburton County Co-operative sub-committee and Solterra Co-Housing Ltd. to bring co-housing units to Haliburton. The units would house four to six seniors, in singles or couples, in multi-unit dwellings. Each senior or couple would have a private bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area, with a common kitchen and living/dining space. The house would also feature something Stinson calls a “house mom,” a paid support worker to deliver groceries a few times a week, check on residents, and help with major chores and some cooking.
The set-up would help seniors to retain independence while keeping costs down, as well as eliminating the isolation many seniors experience.
“They’ll have a community that supports each other,” said Stinson.
Stinson hopes to have an announcement surrounding the project this summer, but says it might be two more years before the first house is available.
“It’s really hard to get it off the ground,” he said. “We don’t have any money and that’s the stumbling block.”
Rideout says if friends or neighbours suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse or neglect, they can contact the senior safety line. The line will help callers to talk about the abuse and report it when they’re ready. They can also point people in the right direction to decide which agency might be of the most help to them in cases of neglect and self-neglect. The line is a 24/7 operation and can be reached at 1-866-299-1011.