Elder abuse is rampant in this country and the situation is getting worse.
As families become increasingly overburdened with caregiving duties, as
community support dwindles, as finances become even more stretched, fragile and
dependent seniors will continue to suffer.
According to the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 7 to 10
percent of Canada's 3.7 million seniors experience some form of emotional,
physical and financial abuse, too often committed by the victims' children and
grandchildren. According to Helen Henderson's article in the September 9th 2000
edition of the Toronto Star, there are 10,000 cases of abuse in Toronto alone.
However, the mistreatment is rarely reported. Why? Parents are ashamed to
admit being abused by their own children or fear total abandonment; spouses fear
even greater retribution should they "go public".
Some other facts about elder abuse:
(Sources: National Survey on Abuse of the Elderly in Canada (1990),
AARP survey, National Center on Elder Abuse)
- seniors with mental or physical disabilities are especially vulnerable to
- older women tend to experience more severe forms of abuse
- financial abuse is the most common form of abuse; chronic verbal abuse is
the second most common form of elder abuse
- victims of physical abuse are more likely to be married than single and
in the majority of cases, the abuser was the spouse of the victim
- more than half of all telemarketing fraud victims in the US are 50 years
and older Elder abuse too often occurs in care facilities - institutions we
entrust with the care of our elderly. The May 2000 Reader's Digest featured a
shocking story about institutional abuse - seniors who were being neglected,
beaten, malnourished, over- or under-medicated or restrained. In many cases
there are not enough nurses or aides to properly care for the residents; in
others those who are hired have no respect for the elderly or are inadequately
trained in the area of dementia care management.
Unfortunately caregivers can also suffer abuse from their care recipients.
High levels of caregiver stress can result from ongoing verbal, emotional even
physical abuse which is too often endured out of a sense of familial duty.
Caregiver abuse can be the result of dementia-induced behavior and in some cases
it can become difficult for a caregiver to determine whether the abuse is
intentional or disease-based.
Being the victim of any kind of abuse is not shameful. What is shameful is
that abuse goes unrecognized or ignored because others "don't want to get
involved" or gets negated through statements like "You are imagining it" or "It
can't be that bad".
What are some of the warning signs and indicators of elder
- unexplained physical injuries - bruises, fractures, broken limbs, rashes,
untreated cuts, sores
- repeated and unexplained accidents
- malnutrition, dehydration
- poor physical appearance or hygiene
- unsanitary living conditions
- over-sedation, depression, passivity
- fear or anxiety in the presence of a caregiver or family member
- disappearance of a person's possessions and valuables
- unusual or inappropriate activity in the person's bank account
- an accumulation of unpaid bills and expenses
- sudden revision of the elderly person's will, naming a new beneficiary or
granting of power of attorney under suspicious circumstances
- physical confinement of a previously mobile person
- caregiver's refusal to let visitors see the elderly person alone
- denial of a person's right to attend religious services
- caregiver's refusal to comply with plans for the elderly person's care If
you know someone who is being abused or find yourself in an abusive situation
TAKE ACTION AT ONCE. If the situation is an emergency, call 911. If not, call
Crime Stoppers at 222-TIPS (no area code necessary) or contact a trusted friend
or health professional for help, information and support.
Elder abuse is becoming the focus of more provincial governments. I
recently took part in the Round Table for Ontario's Elder Abuse Strategy; a
draft Provincial Elder Abuse Strategy will then be developed by the government
based on the Round Table's advice and circulated widely for comment early in
You can help in your community. Lobby your MP for more money to support
elder abuse programs and more humane long term care. Don't let elder abuse
continue in this country!
The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence Health Canada
A referral and directory service of resource people and organizations
working in the area of family violence. Also has articles, fact sheets, project
reports, information kits and videos on family violence issues available for
distribution or rental.
Reader's Digest May 2000: Canada's Hidden Crime: Old Age Homes in
Elder Abuse and Neglect