The Case That Prompted this Blog
October 8, 2012
Call to Action Against Elder Abuse
By Ellwood Shreve, QMI Agency
October 4, 2012
Elder abuse is often well hidden, because family members, caregivers or scam artists victimize many seniors.
But, with the growing number of seniors in Ontario, due to aging baby boomers, collaboration is key to addressing this issue.
That was the key message brought by Durham Regional Police Sgt. John Keating, an expert in the field of crimes against seniors, and Tammy Rankin, elder abuse advisor with the Regional Municipality of Durham. The two were presenters Thursday at a Chatham-Kent Abuse Awareness Committee workshop in Chatham.
Keating said it is important for community partners to tackle this issue, because "there isn't any one agency that can do this on their own."
Police, caregivers and other agencies need to work together, he said.
He told of an elder abuse case in Durham region where a long-term care (LTC) home resident was suddenly in arrears for her lodging.
Because the woman suffered from dementia, and wouldn't be spending her own money, the LTC home contacted police.
Keating said when police heard the word "arrears," the response was this is a civil matter and the problem continued for several months.
Fortunately, the victim's son realized an injustice was taking place and pressed police to investigate. Police discovered the victim's daughter, who had power of attorney, took $163,250 from her mother's bank account over a three-month period. She gambled it away, Keating said.
The daughter ended up being convicted of theft by power of attorney.
Keating said the matter may have been dealt with faster if it was described as a suspected fraud or theft, to police. However, he said the culture is changing and police are recognizing seniors are more likely to be victims of crime, because of his fellow officers are being educated about elder abuse.
Other ways seniors can fall victim is through con artists who roam online dating sites, crooked home care workers who steal money, and workers in homes who over medicate residents to make them easy to handle.
Rankin is concerned about whether society is ready to handle the issue as the number of seniors in Ontario, currently at 1.6 million seniors, is expected to rise to more than three million in the next 20 years.
Noting this is referred to as the "boomer tsunami," Rankin said there are currently waiting lists for admission into LTC homes and to receive in-home care.
"If we're already behind now, we are we going to be in 20 years?" she said.
It is estimated between 2% and 10% of seniors have been abused physically, psychologically or financially. Statistics show the son of a victim is likely to be the abuser 24% of the time, the same percentage applies to unrelated caregivers. Grandchildren are the abusers 21% of the time.
Pam Fasullo, executive director of Chatham-Kent Victims Services and a member of the C-K elder abuse awareness committee, said the problem is large in scope.
"That means there's between 32,000 and 160,000 older adults living in the province of Ontario who are being abused in some form by someone that they know and trust," Fasullo said.
She said those statistics would be comparable in Chatham-Kent where an estimated 1,076 to 2,690 adults 55 and over have experienced some form of abuse.
Fasullo has seen several examples through her work with victim services where elderly victims "want the help, they want the abuse to stop . . . but often times they don't want to report to police."
Rankin said a call to action is needed, like the one decades ago when society became aware of the startling statistics about child abuse and domestic violence.
This resulted in more services and laws being put in place to provide protection.
"We have to recognize that we care for a children, we care for people through domestic violence far more efficiently than we do our older adults," she said. "We have to value them, combat ageism and put some money and resources into combating the issue."
SOURCE: Chatham Daily News
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