Elder Abuse

THUNDER BAY – My grandmother was warmly loved by each of her nine children, their spouses and all of her grandchildren. When she was nearing the end of her life, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My extended family seriously considered caring for her in one of our homes. Because of work commitments, none of us were able to give her the constant care that she needed. Fortunately, we were able to secure a room for her in a local nursing home. The care that she received from the staff was compassionate. She often had visits from family and friends who made sure that she was getting everything that she needed. She passed away with dignity, surrounded by those she loved. Not all of the elders in our society are shown, through respect, the value that their life has. Some are even cruelly abused.

Elder abuse is “any action or inaction by any person that causes harm to an older or vulnerable person” (Thunder Bay Community Elder Abuse Prevention Committee). It can be physical, financial, psychological/emotional, neglect or even self-neglect. Fraud is the number one crime perpetrated against seniors. Anyone can be an abuser, a family member, a friend, staff in an institution, a co-resident or a stranger.

But why does the abuse of elders and vulnerable persons occur? Often the victims are not aware of their rights. Some people think that the police and other agencies can’t help them. In some cases the senior doesn’t speak English. Sometimes they are afraid of being institutionalized. They may experience shame because they are a victim or because the perpetrator is a family member.

There are many things that can be done to provide justice for seniors and vulnerable persons. (See www.tbceac.on.ca to read Be aware-Take care: A Safety Handbook for Thunder Bay Seniors) Education of seniors, their families, agencies and the general public is very important because many people do not realize what elder abuse is and that it is against the law. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse was founded in 1997 and it is committed to the world wide prevention of abuse and neglect of older adults. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day began on June 15, 2006.

P.U.S.H. Northwest is a locally based organization which advocates for persons with disabilities and seniors in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. For more information and advocacy for elder abuse, contact P.U.S.H. at (807) 345-3400.

Donna-Lynn Wiitala