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April 2, 2012

Call for Action on Senior Abuse (CANADA)

By Eugene Kwibuka
Producer Will Campbell

Seniors’ advocates are urging the federal government to create a more effective national strategy to improve seniors’ lives and prevent elder abuse.
CARP vice-president Susan Eng says victim services and prevention initiatives are not readily available across Canada to address elder abuse.
The issue has gained importance after the federal government proposed legislation to amend the Criminal Code to impose tougher penalties for those involved in the abuse of seniors.
Nearly 8,000 seniors were reported victims of violent crimes involving elder abuse in 2009. These acts included direct mistreatment and violence by family and friends, or neglect to seniors by caregivers at retirement homes.
While activists welcomed the government’s move, arguing that it will increase awareness of elder abuse, they also criticized it for not doing enough to combat the problem from its roots.

“By investing in programs and education to recognize signs of elder abuse we can prevent many cases before they reach a criminal act and decrease associated costs in the future,” said the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (ONPEA) in a statement reacting to the government’s proposed legislative action announced earlier this month.
ONPEA called for increased funding to federal and provincial programs directed at elder abuse prevention.
Seniors’ rights group, the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) has also called on the government to create a national comprehensive strategy with more resources to help seniors across the country.
Susan Eng, the organisation’s vice president for advocacy, says victim services and prevention initiatives are not readily or uniformly available.

“With the heightened attention paid to the issue with this announcement, the advocacy for a comprehensive strategy, and resources should fall on more receptive ears,” she says.
Demand for home care across the country
CARP suggests a need for a national hotline with the capacity to re-direct seniors reporting abuse to local service agencies.  Another recommendation in addressing elder abuse is for federal funding to go towards creating shelters for the elderly across the country.
Not all of CARP’s recommendations are supported by the other seniors’ rights activists, but there seems to be a consensus about the need to strengthen seniors’ home care.

Judith Wahl, a lawyer who works exclusively with seniors at the Toronto-based Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, says the federal government should make homecare a mandatory service for seniors across all the provinces.
Seniors’ most frequent abusers are their friends and families
She said the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code “sounds good but it has no substance” wihtout adding mandatory home care.

“They (the federal government) control the health dollars, so they can create a national home care policy,” she says. “They keep saying that there is no money but let’s look at what is being offered…are we looking for new dollars? Not necessarily.”

University of Western Ontario law professor Robert Solomon supports long-term home care for seniors but recognizes provinces also have to do more.

“There is need for a simple, easy to use administrative agency at the provincial level to answer questions and investigate allegations of physical and financial exploitations of seniors for those who are incapable and those who are capable,” he says.
A multi-level and complicated issue
Most elder abuse remains under-reported and many studies suggest that seniors’ most frequent abusers are their friends and families. It is also noted that the most frequent abuse is financial exploitation.

Experts believe the protection against elder abuse requires the attention of everyone, from individuals to all levels of government, and service providers.

A spokesperson for the Government of Canada said the government believes that any form of elder abuse is unacceptable and is committed to helping combat elder abuse, but also mentioned that all levels of governments have a role to play in addressing the issue, especially the provinces and territories.
By investing in programs and education to recognize signs of elder abuse, we can prevent many cases before they reach a criminal act and decrease associated costs in the future.
Opposition critics on seniors’ affairs have also called on the government to initiate new policies that would help prevent elder’s abuse through raising their living standards.

“We are in support of the proposed elder abuse legislation.  However, New Democrats believe that we need to address the root causes of elder abuse, most notably poverty.  With financial security, seniors will be in a much better position to protect themselves from abuse,” says Irene Mathyssen, the NDP seniors critic.

Judy Sgro, Liberal seniors and pensions critic, has also called for more action to promote awareness of elder abuse, especially at the family level where it remains largely under-reported.

 SOURCE:      Capital News Online, ca
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