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 soon 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.
“They really got entrenched in this project – the last year we received $25,000 and this year from the golf tournament we received another $40,000.”
Morrison explained victims having to travel away from their homes to escape abuse is not an ideal solution.
“It is important to have a shelter close by to where people live rather then having to travel to an urban city where people may not be comfortable in. It is too far away from home,” she said. “This way, if they are leaving a situation and not going back, at least they are closer to a community where the planning is closer to where they will have a new residence.”
This shelter is the first step towards a greater understanding of how elder abuse affects its victims and the community, according to Morrison.
“Elder abuse is something that is very much under reported,” Morrison explained. “Not a lot of people want to admit that it is actually happening, especially in the area of financial abuse and neglect.”
Elder abuse can be physical, emotional or mental but Morrison said its most common form is financial.
“The financial abuse part is really big, especially in this economic downturn,” she said.
“A lot of people are desperate for money and they know mom and dad have money. There are a lot of perpetrators who manipulate that situation and put pressure on their parents to give them money, or sign over the farm so they can sell it and even threaten their parents with not being able to see their grandkids.
“There are different ways they try to gain control and a lot of times it is a family member who is the perpetrator. There is also the aspect of saving face where it is hard to admit your family member is even doing this to you.
“Everyone thinks things are wonderful, but behind closed doors – this is what actually is happening. It is like domestic abuse with the same situations and the same reasons why seniors don’t like to report it.”
The program will provide multiple avenues of support for victims, according to Morrison.
“The shelter is a community response project with other agencies involved,” she said.
“Family Services will be providing counselling and Women’s Outreach will provide some protection order information and support. We also have the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee being able to give guidelines on managing personal directives and powers of attorney.
“The Golden Circle Outreach will be providing the actual hands-on walking the journey with the client. We will help them create a plan and then we will help them execute that plan, whether it be connecting them with people who will look after them in the community they want to go back to or go to.”
Morrison noted there currently isn’t a need for volunteers, however she said that Royal LePage has made it a goal to build a facility that would accommodate the needs of all the victims of elder abuse in the community.
This would require further financial support, according to Morrison, and she said that if anyone is interested – they should contact the Golden Circle.
Red Deerians can help stop elder abuse by recognizing it in their own community, according to Morrison.
“If they see it, they should ask the individual if they are okay. They should ask them if they can help them address finding help for the issue and they can always call us – we have information and referrals on elder abuse and we actually go out into the community as well to do presentations to get people talking. We need people to understand that elder abuse happens.”