Elder Abuse: It’s Time to Face the Reality
September 07, 2021

Ottawa Journal (September 07 – September 11, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

Seniors have worked hard and have contributed a great deal to make our country the exceptional place that we call home. It is therefore, hard to imagine that this group could be subjected to neglect and abuse. The unfortunate reality is that many are and they suffer in silence. The issue of elder abuse is an important one for all Canadians and awareness is the first step to preventing and identifying ways to overcome it.

Elder abuse is any action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person. Neglect is a lack of action by that person in a relationship of trust with the same result. Elder abuse takes many different forms including: physical, psychological, and financial. Financial abuse is the most commonly reported form of elder abuse. In many cases, more than one form of abuse can occur at the same time. The abuse can also be single incident or a repeated pattern of behaviour.

Approximately one in five Canadians believes they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse. The abuse often happens because of the abuser’s ability to have control and power over an older person. Other times the abuse is the result of addiction issues (i.e. drugs, alcohol, gambling), mental health problems, a cycle of family violence, or ageism.

Seniors who suffer abuse often know and trust the individual who is abusing them. It can be done by a family member, a friend, someone who provides assistance with basic needs or services, or health care providers in institutional settings. In many cases, the abuser is dependent on the senior for money, food, or shelter.

There are many indicators of elder abuse and neglect; however, the indicators can often be very difficult to detect. Signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect can include: fear, anxiety, depression or passiveness in relation to a family member, friend, or care provider; unexplained physical injuries; dehydration, poor nutrition or poor hygiene; improper use of medication; confusion about new legal documents, such as a new will or new mortgage; sudden drop in cash flow or financial holdings; and reluctance to speak about the situation.

Unfortunately many seniors experiencing abuse often feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone that they are being abused by someone they trust. They remain silent because they fear retaliation or punishment or fear they would be moved from their home or community. Furthermore, they may also remain silent because of a sense of loyalty to the family member inflicting the abuse. They may also be unaware of the resources and people available to help them.

It is important to remember that there is help and that the affected senior has access to this information so they are equipped to make informed decisions. This assistance may include: other family members, friends, health care providers, social services, police, legal professionals, and members of faith communities. Abuse is unacceptable and no one should ever suffer from it.

For more information on elder abuse and finding help, there are helpful several resources and phone numbers listed on the Seniors Canada website at: www.seniors.gc.ca.