Senior Abuse – It’s Not Right!!!
We have a shared responsibility to promote respect for all members of our society. Everyone has a role to play. When people have trouble in their relationships, you may be the neighbour, friend or family member who can make a positive difference. We also need to recognize the ways our society discriminates against older adults. “Ageism” is the term that describes attitudes and beliefs that cause people to treat older adults as if they are less important or less valued because they are older. These attitudes are a factor in abusive situations because they allow people to believe that they have the right to ignore, harm or control an older adult.
What is Abuse of Older Adults?
The terms of “elder abuse” or “senior abuse” are often used to describe the experience of older adults who are abused, usually by someone they care about. It is abuse whenever someone limits or controls the rights and freedoms of an older adult. The older adult is unable to freely make choices because they are afraid of being humiliated, hurt, left alone, or of the relationship ending. Abuse causes harm to an older adult.
Source: Government of Canada. It’s Not Right! How You Can Identify Abuse and Help Older Adults at Risk. For more information www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca
For older people, abuse can come in many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or neglect. It’s possible to experience more than one type of abuse at the same time, or at different times.
In Canada, some kinds of abuse-like fraud, assault, sexual assault, threatening harm and criminal harassment-are crimes under the Criminal Code. Some types of abuse are also offences under provincial and territorial laws.
Physical abuse is the deliberate use of force against a person without that person’s consent. It can cause physical pain, injury, or impairment. This includes:
All of these acts are crimes in Canada. Physical abuse includes the deliberate overmedication or under medication of an older person.
Sexual abuse involves any unwanted sexual touching or activity. This can include:
Sexual assault is a crime in Canada. Even when you are married, it is a crime to force any sexual conduct on another person.
Emotional (or psychological) abuse involves using words or actions to control, frighten, isolate or erode a person’s self-respect. Emotional abuse can include:
Emotional abuse is serious – inside wounds can take a long time to heal. Some forms of emotional abuse are crimes. Stalking, verbal threats, harassing telephone calls, deliberate intimidation and counselling (advising) suicide are all criminal acts in Canada. Many other forms of emotional abuse are not crimes. Still, they can hurt a lot and may lead to criminal acts later on.
Financial (or economic) abuse involves acting without consent in a way that financially benefits one person at the expense of another. This may include:
Most forms of financial abuse are crimes, including theft, criminal breach of trust, forgery and fraud. It is also a crime to misuse a Power of Attorney. Financial abuse can also include marriages where a person deliberately pressures an older person of limited capacity into marriage solely for financial profit.
Neglect is the failure to provide adequately for a dependent adult. As an older adult, you may be at risk of abuse (including neglect) because of where you live (alone, with family, or in an institution) or because you depend on other people for basic help with daily living or financial support. You may receive help with intimate care – like feeding, dressing or bathing. You may depend on someone to give you your medication. These are situations where abuse can take place.
Oversight or deliberate acts of neglect can involve:
Some forms of neglect are crimes in Canada, including failure to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death.
Institutional Abuse or Neglect
Senior abuse may take place in the home, the community or in an institution.
Older adults living in institutional care facilities may experience abuse that is a single incident of poor professional practice or part of a larger pattern of ill treatment. This may include:
Why take Action?
These are some of the reasons why you might not want to take action and get help, and why you should act to be safer.
You may not be seeking help because:
Abuse is not your fault, is always wrong and there are ways to get help!
How Can You Be Safer Now?
There are actions you can take yourself or with the help of people you trust.
If you are living with your abuser
Join activities outside your home (art or fitness classes).
If you are leaving your home
If your abuser lives outside the home
How Can You Get The Help You Need?
When you call for help it is very important that the person you speak to understand the type of abuse, and the important help you need now.
When contacting someone for help
Source: National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly. Resources for Older Women- Saskatchewan Edition. www.nicenet.ca
How do I Report Abuse?
All of us have a role to play in stopping elder abuse. We need to be alert to the signs and signals of abuse. Friends, family and professionals all need to do their part.
Going to the police
Call the police if a family member or caregiver physically or sexually assaults you, threatens to assault you, or commits a financial crime against you. The police will come to help. Many police officers are trained to deal with abuse in families or relationship situations. Some have special training to deal with senior abuse.
They can take you to a hospital if you need treatment. Or they can help you leave the situation safely.
The police may arrest the person who abused you if they believe that person has broken the law.
Signs and Signals of Abuse
Do you suspect someone you know is being abused? Watch for:
These situations can have other causes, but they may be signs that someone is experiencing abuse.
Resources: Building a Reference Li
It is a good idea to create – in advance – your own list of community or other resources that can help you. Look in the telephone book for contact numbers. The following is a list of services or organizations that might be able to help you with information, support or emergency assistance.
Keep these numbers up to date as they change from time to time.
Can help you assess your safety and take action against someone committing a crime in non-emergency situations. Check the first few pages of your telephone book for the phone number. Call 911 in an emergency.
Mobile Crisis Services 24 hour Seniors Neglect and Abuse Response Line
Prince Albert and area (306) 764-1011
Saskatoon and area (306) 933-6200
Regina and area (306) 757-0127
Saskatchewan Health Line – 811
Source: Government of Canada. Family Violence Initiative of the Department of Justice Canada. Elder Abuse is Wrong. www.justice.gc.ca