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Elder Abuse is an Issue in Canada

Older woman outsideWhat would you do if you found out your grandmother had been hurt by another family member? Or you saw your elderly neighbour being yelled at by her caregiver?

It’s painful to picture our older friends and family members being abused by the people they trust. Yet, a survey released in 2016 by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly estimated that 766,000 Canadian seniors – more than three-quarters of a million – were abused last year.

On June 15, people all over the globe are recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to shed much-needed light on the issue. Elder abuse is “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person,” according to the World Health Organization.

Given that Canada’s senior population is increasing, researchers believe that rates of elder abuse are likely to go up. And women are at higher risk of being abused by a family member. Recent Statistics Canada data on family violence against seniors shows that:

Despite growing awareness, abuse is not an easy subject for survivors to confront or report, so it may be helpful for friends and family members to recognize the signs and know what resources are available. Survivors may have trouble disclosing that their loved ones have hurt or exploited them. Many depend on their families to provide necessities and fear that reporting abuse will threaten their well-being.

The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children says seniors experience abuse in a variety of ways including financial abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, spiritual or religious abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. And while it’s not always obvious when it’s happening to our loved ones, the organization recommends keeping an eye out for common indicators including:  

  • Changes in behaviour including anxiety, fear, and depression
  • Injuries like bruises, scratches or sprains
  • Explanations for injuries that seem odd or unlikely
  • Changes in social activity like missing church, social gatherings or events
  • Changes in living arrangements like new friends or family members unexpectedly moving in
  • Changes in financial situations, including unpaid bills or missing belongings
  • Signs of neglect, such as a lack of food, being left alone for a long time or not receiving proper medical supplies like glasses or a cane.

If you are worried someone you know is experiencing abuse, The Canadian Network for Preventing Elder Abuse suggests taking these steps:

  • Talk to them: Ask questions about their well-being and avoid being judgmental. If they come forward, believe them and offer support.
  • Understand the obstacles they could be facing: Older women who experience violence face many barriers to leaving. Their economic security, health and safety could be affected by leaving the relationship, especially if they are living with a disability.
  • Respect their rights: Don’t patronize them or play into degrading assumptions about aging. If a person declines your help, respect their choice, even if you disagree with it.
  • Get their consent: Confronting an abuser can create a more dangerous situation for the survivor. Make sure you don’t share personal information without getting permission. If the adult is mentally capable of making their own decisions, ask before you intervene. If they want out of the situation/relationship, help them develop a safe exit plan.

If you or someone you know needs help, check out some of the services available in your area. If there is immediate danger, call 9-1-1 and ask to talk to an officer who is trained in family violence. 


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5 responses to “Elder Abuse is an Issue in Canada”

  1. Avatar Simone Powell says:

    Hi Brittany.
    I’m sorry to hear about this situation. The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse has a listing with links to support services across Canada:
    https://cnpea.ca/en/what-is-elder-abuse/get-help

    You might also find it helpful to look at the website of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly which is based in Toronto:
    http://www.advocacycentreelderly.org/elder_abuse_-_introduction.php

    Take care.

  2. Avatar Brittany Jackson says:

    Hi i would like to know what i should do. I believe my grandma has had her money taken the local cops won’t listen to my reason’s. I was told since the person who has taken her money was her power of attorney and landlord there’s nothing i can do. My grandma has dementia so you see things can get messy when they really don’t understand. My grandma has stated to me she knows what’s going on than later she’ll admit she agrees with anyone. I moved in with her in june of last year as of October she moved to a home because of her health. I told her i would pay rent so she didn’t have too until i can figure out where i was going and to protect her stuff and i just found out the landlord and her power of attorney forced her to pay rent and used my money on something else. They forced her to pay hydro meanwhile I’ve already paid it. I have no clue where half of her money went to or what they used it for. I never thought this would happen to her.

    • Stacey Rodas Stacey Rodas says:

      Hi Brittany – thanks for your comment. I know it is very hard to know what to do. Please remember that there is help out there for you and your grandma.

      We do not provide direct services and are not legal experts on this specific topic, so I am not able to advise you directly; but I can maybe point you in the direction of those who can.

      If you or her are in immediate danger call 911. Otherwise, it depends on the province you live in. There should be a listing in the front or back of your phone book. If you have a local YWCA they probably have the best local numbers for you to dial for further assistance. You can also check the website Hot Peach Pages. This website is run by volunteers but usually has reliable information. Just select the province you need at this link: http://www.hotpeachpages.net/canada/index.html

      Please be aware of your safety and your grandma’s as you try to change this situation of financial elder abuse. Whoever you speak to, ask them about how to best ensure safety. And if you are using a computer or other device, others might check the history – learn how to make your searches safe by erasing your tracks – you can find out more at http://www.awhl.org/security.

      Best wishes, -Stacey

  3. Avatar PAT MARSHALL says:

    I need to speak with someone with regard to the abuse I am experiencing from my oldest child. He asked to stay overnights sometimes when the weather was very bad as he lived with a girlfriend 2 hours away from work. It is now 1 year and although I have asked him to leave he refuses to go.

    He is verbally abusive, does not contribute financially in any form; eats all my food and borrows money which is rarely repaid. I am afraid of him.

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