Wednesday June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The purpose of the WEAAD is to encourage communities to recognize the problem of elderly abuse, and for countries to create policies that foster respect for elders and provide them the tools to continue to be productive citizens. This year the theme is focused on “One person. One action. One Nation. – United against elder abuse”
Currently, the world is undergoing significant demographic changes. Estimates indicate that by 2050, the global population of people above the age of 60 will exceed the number of younger people. These changes have led to a worldwide recognition of the problems and challenges that face the elderly. Research has shown that elderly abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation is one of the biggest issues facing senior citizens around the world. World Health Organization data suggests that 4 to 6 per cent of elderly suffer from some form of abuse, a large percentage of which goes unreported.
The abuse of older adults (senior abuse or elder abuse) refers to actions that harm an older person or jeopardize the person’s health or welfare. Abuse and neglect of older adults can be a single or a repeated act. Abuse can assume many characteristics and may be physical (hitting, pinching, excessive force), emotional (belittling, with-holding affection), verbal (name calling, yelling), financial (taking money or property), sexual and spiritual. Neglect can be part of abuse and involves not doing something, such as not providing the older person with food, shelter, medication, or care. Older adults often experience combined forms of abuse and neglect.
Abuse or neglect of older adults can take place in the home, in a residential care setting, or in the community, and sadly, the abuse most often occurs within the family, by a spouse, children, and/or grandchildren. However, abusers can also include friends, neighbours, paid care providers, landlords and staff, or any individual in a position of power, trust, or authority.
If you are being abused, you should know:
- You do not deserve to be abused.
- You have a right to live without fear.
- You are not to blame for the violence or the threats.
- You have the right to a safe, healthy environment and healthy relationships.
- Abuse often gets worse over time.
- You have the right to control your own life and make your own decisions.
- You are not alone. Many people are abused and many people have found ways to deal with these situations.
You may or may not want to leave the situation, or take action, but it is important to know your options, and there is help available. Making difficult choices is often easier with good resources, because good information gives you personal choice and personal power. If you are in a situation of immediate danger, or a criminal offence has been committed, call 9-1-1. Other sources of information and referral include:
- Victim Support Line 1-888-579-2888
- Long-Term Care Action Line 1-866-876-7658
- Retirement Home Regulatory Authority 1-855-275-7472
- Senior Crime Stoppers (anonymously report crimes) 1-800-222-8477
- Ontario Public Guardian & Trustee 1-800-366-0335
- Seniors Safety Line (1-866-299-1011) provides assistance 24 hours per day, seven days per week, in 154 languages.
For more information and resources on Elder Abuse, visit www.elderabuseontario.com or the Canadian Network website at www.cnpea.net. Be responsive and be responsible – if you are aware of an elder abuse situation, report it.