Senior Scene June 12,2017

Thursday June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).  This year there has been a great deal of focus on “It’s Not Right” which is an initiative spearheaded by the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children.  Of particular interest is the component aimed at “Neighbours, Friends and Families for Older Adults”.
The objective is to endorse the fact that everyone has a shared responsibility to encourage respect for all members of our society.  They produced a wonderful booklet that can help anyone recognize the warning signs and learn how to be supportive and safe.  This week I will share some excerpts from their brochure.
The terms “elder abuse” or “senior abuse” are often used to describe the experience of older adults who are abused – usually by someone they know and all too frequently by someone they care about.  It is abuse whenever someone limits or controls the rights and freedoms of an older adult.  The senior is unable to freely make choices because they are afraid of being humiliated, hurt, left alone, or, of the relationship ending.  Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, spiritual or neglect.
As a neighbour, friend or family member, here are some warning signs of elder or senior abuse:
• A disclosure (believe it if someone tells you they are being abused)
• injuries such as bruises, sprains, broken bones, scratches, especially when the explanation does not fit the injury
• changes in behavior of the older adult such as depression, withdrawal, or fear
• changes in regular social activity such as missing church or being absent from other usual social events
• changes in living arrangements such as previously uninvolved relatives or new friends moving in
• changes in financial situations such as cancellation of service (cable, internet, phone) because the bills are not being paid, or of possessions “disappearing” from their house
• signs of neglect such as no food in the house, being left along for extended periods of time, not having necessary aids like glasses or hearing aids, or not having proper clothing
• controlling behaviour such as isolating an older adult from friends and family
• blaming the older adult for the abuse:  “It’s your fault that I pushed you”
• a strong sense of entitlement:  “I can do whatever I want/you owe me”
• treating the older adult like a child:  “Do what I tell you”
• frequent arguments, name calling or threats
As a final thought for this week, here are some means to assess your own behavior to determine if it can be construed as abusive.  Unfortunately abusive behavior is not unusual and it can creep into any relationship no matter how well-meaning you are.  Here are some warning signs that your actions may be considered abusive:
• if the older adult is afraid of you
• if the individual is capable and yet you are making all of the decisions
• if you take their money or possessions and feel entitled to it
• if your need to “solve” a situation allows you to ignore the other person’s feelings
Take note of your impact on others.  Do not be afraid to seek help – talk to someone you trust.  You can change the situation.
Next week we will explore further what neighbours, friends and family members can do to help an elder or senior they have identified as being in an abusive relationship.