Abuse of seniors is becoming more prevalent in society, yet most people don't know how to spot the symptoms or offer help. That's why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day has been declared for June 15- - to raise the profile of the problem and educate the public.
Elder abuse can take the form of neglect or physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse. It can also include violation of basic human rights or self-neglect.
There is little statistical data on seniors who suffer abuse, although the few studies done show four to six per cent of seniors polled reported abuse in the home.
In a U.S. nursing home study, 36 per cent of staff said they witnessed physical abuse of seniors within a one-year period and 40 per cent of the staff themselves admitted to having psychologically abused seniors in care.
Whatever the true numbers are, experts predict they're on the rise. The number of adults aged 60-plus globally is expected to reach 1.2 billion by 2025 compared to about 542 million in 1995.
Communities around the world are trying to tackle the problem. On the Coast the Community Response Network (CRN) has been formed to raise awareness, educate and insure a coordinated response to instances of elder abuse.
The volunteer group is made up of people from health and social services, victim services, community services and interested community members.
To raise the profile of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the CRN plans to have members available to talk with the public and give out information at Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons and Trail Bay Centre in Sechelt on Saturday, June 15, from 1 to 3 p.m. They will be wearing purple in honour of the day and will be handing out pamphlets such as Stopping Adult Abuse and Neglect - Together.
That pamphlet lays out five clues that abuse or neglect may be occurring:
Sudden changes in wills or unusual bank withdrawals.
Rarely seeing a senior in the neighbourhood.
An elder who appears to be frightened of certain family members, friends or caregivers.
Frequent or unexplained injuries.
Signs of declining health, grooming and/or physical appearance.
Dianne Evans, CRN coordinator, said it's important to watch for these signs because seniors don't always want to say when something's wrong.
"A lot of times they have fear over how someone is going to react," Evans said, noting the abuser is sometimes a family member who has some control over their life.
Seniors may also fear the loss of independence if an agency steps in to investigate what's going on, but Evans said that taking a senior from their home is a last resort.
"We really need to stress that in the legislation there are guiding principles of self determination where somebody can be self determining and that we're least intrusive as well," Evans said. "So people who are worried that it's going to mean they're going to have to go to a care home or that their son will be asked to leave their life or whatever, that's not necessarily the case. We work to try to decrease the risk and stop the abuse from going on, but to maintain what's important in the individual's life."
If you suspect elder abuse is taking place, you can report it to the Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL) at 1-866-437-1940 or to the RCMP.
Seniors who wish to ask questions anonymously or talk to someone about situations where they feel they are being abused or mistreated can also call SAIL Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The service will be expanded in July to run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily excluding holidays.
If you would like to know more about the CRN, want to get involved or wish to donate to the volunteer organization that operates on just $500 a year, contact Evans at 604-886-2494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Coast Reporter