Abusive behaviour towards anybody is of course unacceptable.
And when one thinks of a senior citizen suffering from abuse, it’s simply unimaginable.
But it happens and probably more frequently then most people would think.
According to Alberta Seniors and Housing, elder abuse is any action or inaction that jeopardizes the health or well-being of any older adult. “Elder abuse can take several forms including financial, emotional, physical, sexual, neglect and medication.
“Often more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. The two most frequently identified and reported types of elder abuse in Canada are financial and emotional.”
Tragically, such things as shame or guilt may stop a senior from revealing their abuse, according to the province.
“Sometimes victims simply do not have the capacity to report it. Whether a victim is unable or unwilling, some of the barriers to revealing elder abuse include: fear; love for the abuser; lack of understanding or impairment; being unaware of resource options; or acceptance of abuse or neglect as normal behaviour.”
Thankfully, there will soon be a place of refuge for local seniors who find themselves in abusive situations.
The Senior Elder Abuse Program – an initiative spearheaded by the Golden Circle and supported by Family Services, Women’s Outreach and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee – will be opening an elder abuse shelter in Red Deer.
The new shelter will allow victims of elder abuse in Central Alberta to remain in the community and not have to travel to Edmonton and Calgary, while still being protected.
Golden Circle Executive Director Monica Morrison is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community that allowed this shelter to become reality.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to connect with a corporate sponsor who was really interested in addressing this need,” she said. “Red Deer and Central Alberta did not have an elder abuse shelter; you either had to go to Edmonton or Calgary. This is something we always wanted to have in our community and Royal LePage heard about that need.”
Clearly, it’s that much more troubling that victims would have to travel from their homes to escape abuse – finding themselves in an unfamiliar setting which could in itself be troubling and even disorienting.
Like other types of family violence, the dynamics of elder abuse are complex.
According to Alberta Seniors and Housing, risk factors for abuse include a history of spousal abuse; family dynamics; isolation; troubled relatives, friends or neighbours; inability to cope with long-term caregiving; institutional conditions; ageism and lack of knowledge about the aging process; society’s acceptance of violence and health and mobility issues.
Common signs of elder abuse include confusion; depression or anxiety; unexplained injuries; changes in hygiene; seeming to be fearful around certain people and fear or worry when talking about money.
In Red Deer, the program will provide multiple avenues of support for victims, officials have explained, such as counselling provided by Family Services and protection order information and support coming from Women’s Outreach.
In the meantime, it’s up to members of the public to help stop elder abuse by recognizing it in their own community, and reporting it.
Many seniors are strong, resilient and active people living life to the full with loving families and they have no reason to live in fear whatsoever.
But there are others who are vulnerable, alone and sometimes victimized – even by those they love.
As a community, we need to be more vigilant in helping to bring this issue increasingly to the surface. Thankfully, the Senior Elder Abuse Program is absolutely a huge step in that direction.