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May 3, 2012

Steps Taken to Protect Seniors (CANADA)

By Victoria Gray, The Tribune
 April 30, 2012

ST. CATHARINES

Have you ever told a senior they were too old to understand something? That’s ageist and a form of elder abuse.
Dion McParland, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region says one of the most common forms of elder abuse is ageism, a form of discrimination.

“It’s about trust. Seniors have to be comfortable and in control of (their lives) as much as possible,” McParland said.
It’s not just telling them they don’t understand today’s fashion, it’s more like telling a senior they’re too old to spend their money wisely. That’s ageism and financial abuse — the other most common form of elder abuse.
“One thing we see a lot, is abuse of power of attorney,” McParland said. “Children can start, basically thinking they get what’s owed to them even before a person has passed on.”
There are many different types of elder abuse, such as physical abuse, neglect — either of a person’s basic needs due to lack of knowledge or deliberate disregard for a person’s needs — sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse.
McParland said only 24% of elder abuse cases happen in institutions, such as nursing homes, and the other 74% are committed by family members.
“Sometimes people don’t even know they are doing it. The senior’s son and daughter thinks they are doing what’s best for their parents, but it’s not what their parents want,” she said.
Thanks to a two-year, $15,000 grant the foundation received in early April from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Alzheimer Society can focus on strengthening the Niagara Elder Abuse Prevention Network.
Public awareness tops McParland’s to-do list, but the foundation also plans to train and educate front-line staff and co-ordinate the services offered within the network.
“If people continue not to understand what elder abuse is, we can’t stop it,” she said.
The provincial government set up the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse in 2003 and 54 regional networks were established throughout the province, including Niagara, but they didn’t receive any funding until 2007-2008 when they were given only $7,000.
The regional network is a group of community agencies, like health service providers, lawyers, police and organizations like the Alzheimer’s society, that provide services to older individuals.
Det. Const. Tammy Hollard, Niagara Regional Police’s senior support and vulnerable adult co-ordinator, said elder abuse is a human rights issue, housing issue, criminal issue, justice issue, health issue, social issue, economic issue and gender issue that doesn’t have any one solution.
“It’s difficult because there is no one place criminal cases are dealt with, if it’s a case of fraud it goes to the fraud unit, sexual abuse goes to that unit and so on,” she said. “If it’s not criminal, I try to connect families to a community agency that can help and I know a lot of them personally because I worked with them when my mother needed to use them.”
Hollard said many people don’t report the abuse because they don’t want to go to nursing homes or get their children into trouble.
“Nobody wants to lose their independence, you know, and we try to keep people in their homes as long as possible, if at all possible,” she said.
Hollard said the best part of her job is conducting home visits because she gets to meet people who have lived full, rich lives and can share their knowledge with her while she helps them.
“You have to learn to show them the respect they deserve, but not let your heart get too involved, so you can do what’s needed,” she said.
Signs of elder abuse can include unexplained injuries, unusual legal activity related to wills or other documents, unnecessary purchases for the home or property, unexplained bank withdrawals, missing bank or credit card statements, lack of food, clothing or other necessities, unexplained weight loss, depression anxiety or fear.
Hollard and McParland said that after they do educational presentations, people disclose abuse of themselves or others. Both believe that by strengthening the network’s position in the region, seniors may feel more comfortable coming forward to ask for help.
“We also need to get the youth involved because it’s everyone’s job to look out for seniors in their community,” Hollard said. “If you’re walking by, take a look and if something’s amiss give us a call.”
For more information visit www.onpea.org or to get help for a senior call Hollard at 905-688-4111, ext. 5156.

SOURCE:    The Niagara Falls Review
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