Senior Scene June 19,2017

Last Thursday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), and while I shared some information about the “It’s Not Right” campaign and the booklet produced by the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, I wanted to provide some additional information this week.  The booklet is called “How You Can Identify Abuse and Help Older Adults at Risk” and the information is aimed at “Neighbours, Friends and Families for Older Adults”.
Ageism is discrimination against older adults.  It happens when older adults are treated as if they were 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.  Unfortunately, ageism is common in our society.
The abuse of older adults often occurs within the family and frequently involves the adult children and grandchildren. Other relatives, friends, neighbours, paid or unpaid caregivers, landlords, financial advisors or any person in a position of power, trust or authority can be abusive.
Some of the prevalent risk factors for older adult or elder abuse are as follows:
• Isolation – physical, social or cultural
• History of domestic violence
• Shared living situations
• Dependency on an older adult (for shelter or financial assistance)
• Addiction issues
• Depression and other mental health issues
• Cognitive impairment
As a neighbour, friend, or family member you can provide assistance to someone you believe to be at risk by adhering to 3 simple guidelines:
1. SEE it!  “It’s not right!”  Recognize the warning signs of abuse.
2. NAME it!  “I’m worried about you.”  Talk to the older adult.  Name your concern.
3. CHECK it!  “What can I do to help?”  Ask questions, check with professionals, check for danger – help with safety planning.
Additionally you need to be patient and listen carefully to any explanations offered.  Do not judge or jump to conclusions.  Encourage the person to be their own advocate.  People of any age are more likely to take action if they can formulate their own plan of action.  Ask what you can do to help and respect their decisions even though you may not agree with them.  Do not confront or accuse the abusive person as they may take out their anger on the older adult the moment you leave.
Frequently, your offer of assistance and support may be rejected by the individual being abused.  Many people do not want to talk about abuse and find it hard to ask for help.  If the person you are worried about claims they are not being abused, but you are still concerned, keep the lines of communication open.  Show compassion and do not let yourself become frustrated or angry.  It can be difficult to understand the decisions of others, but they should be respected.  Reassure the individual you will still be available to assist and support them should they alter their decision and decide to seek help.
If the situation escalates to an emergency or crisis, call 9-1-1 to reach the police, ambulance or fire department.  Support is available by calling the Seniors Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011, the Victim Support Line at 1-888-579-2888, or Talk4Healing (for indigenous women) at 1-855-554-4325.