The woman was approached by a man claiming to have surveyed her roof. It was about to leak badly, he told her. His crew could fix it fast and reasonably, no money up front.
“All they did was seal the chimney and eavestrough,” she said. “He came in my house and demanded payment. He came on strong and then was hostile. He scared me. I paid.”
A week later, the scammer was back, demanding taxes on the original bill. Again, the senior was intimidated.
“I kept quiet and didn’t say anything until two police officers showed up,” she said.
The case only came to light because the perpetrator was charged with 30 counts of fraud and police followed up with his victims.
The senior remained silent. She asked for anonymity, citing fear and shame. She is part of a growing and largely hidden elder abuse epidemic.
Up to 10 per cent of Canadian seniors experience some form of elder abuse, an Environics for Human Resources and Social Development Canada study stated.
More than 96 per cent of Canadians think most of the abuse experienced by older adults is hidden or goes undetected and believe the issue should be a health and safety priority for seniors and people entrusted with their well-being.
Elder abuse is rampant, York Region Social Services Network program manager Tazim Bhanji said.
Precise statistics are unavailable because most seniors, particularly those in the South Asian community, don’t report abuse.
“We can’t capture statistics,” she said. “We’re aware of the issue, but seniors are reluctant to tell anyone. In the South Asian community, it’s a cultural issue. Seniors feel reporting abuse, be it physical, financial or psychological, brings shame to the family.”
Aris Pakalns, owner of Newmarket’s Comfort Keepers, providers of non-medical home care, deems elder abuse a hidden and complicated problem.
“It’s a hot topic no one wants to talk about,” he said. “If you’re abusing someone, obviously, you’re not going to talk about it. If you’re being abused, you’re embarrassed and fear you’ll lose any help if you discuss it.”
Elder abuse is more than a distasteful and worrisome issue, York Regional Police seniors safety officer Const. Robyn Kassam said. It can also be a crime.
On average, the community service bureau, in which Const. Kassam works, receives 400 calls per month pertaining to seniors 65 and older. Most are medical, accident or theft calls, she said.
About 35 of the calls are categorized as elder abuse.
SOURCE: The York Region
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