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February 7, 2012

Seniors Hotline a Valuable Tool to Combat Abuse

By RUTH FARQUHAR
February 7, 2012

The immediate backlash that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his MPs felt when he announced in Switzerland that they were going to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security had them backing off that plan within days of his speech.
Once again my belief that seniors hold lots of power was reaffirmed and, of course, seniors vote, always.
In the midst of all of this I read a column in The Toronto Star by one of my favorite columnists, Carol Goar about the Ontario elder abuse hotline possibly going under because it needs funding. It immediately struck me that with all the power seniors hold, why aren't they calling the Ontario government to task about this? And, of course, the answer is the same with any demographic that experiences abuse -- no one wants to talk about it, or admit it is happening at an alarming rate.
The Ontario Network for Prevention of Elder abuse that runs the hotline says it handles 13,000 calls a year. It's time we figured out how to stop it.
According the network's website, Ontario is home to 1.5 million seniors and research indicates that 4%-10% (60,000 to 150,000) of them have experienced abuse. That is no small number and with the growing senior population is only going to climb. Why would the government balk at continuing to fund the help line with the evidence staring them in the face? Part of the problem could be, as Goar points out, Ontario has gone through four seniors' ministers in the past three years. Sounds like a portfolio with very little importance put on it.
The that happens to seniors have commonalities that occur in any other segment of the population such as: physical, emotional, sexual and perhaps more common to seniors is neglect. The most common, according to the website, is financial. Many seniors are reluctant to report the abuse because they are ashamed, they may not recognize what is happening as abuse or they are worried that their children or other family may get into trouble. If they are in a nursing home or seniors residence they may fear retaliation if they report abuse.
A strategy from the Ontario government to combat elder abuse was released in 2009. This strategy was developed by the Ontario Seniors Secretariat and was a five-year plan with $4.3 million set aside to address three areas: co-ordination of community services, training for front line staff and public education. The secretariat partnered with the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ontario Victims services and the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Then there are 10 different legislative acts that could be impacted by the strategy. Some are the Family Law Act, Mental Health Act, Long Term Care Act, Nursing Home Act, Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act to name a few.
You can see where this strategy could get bogged down. There are a lot of people competing for $4.3 million. According to Goar, the network is trying to raise funds to keep the hotline going. It will take $75,000 to run it for another six months and they have a month to raise it. So let's see, $150,000 to keep this vital service alive for a year -- given the costs of some government services and the spending, this seems relatively cheap. Even with the cutbacks that the Liberals have been saying are coming down the pipe.
If seniors are afraid to contact authorities about abuse they are experiencing, they may feel more comfortable contacting a help line.
It's hard to raise funds for a problem that no one wants to talk about. For anyone who wants to donate to the hotline by check they can call, 416-916-6728 or go online to www.onpea.org and follow the prompts. If you are a senior who wants to talk to someone who will understand what you are going through please call the safety line toll free at, 1-866-299-1011.
Let's just hope that after a month it is still there to provide this much-needed service.




SOURCE:       The Sudbury Star
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