We hear the term “elder abuse” increasingly frequently, in the news, on discussion shows and during commercial breaks. Despite growing awareness of the issue, elder abuse remains a difficult problem to address, often because it is so well disguised.
Defined, by the World Health Organization, as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person,” elder abuse is still seen as a taboo for many; consequently, those affected are often reluctant to ask for help. In other cases, the senior suffering the abuse may be dependent on the person mistreating them and not feel able to come forward, or they may not be aware that they are victims of abuse.
As our population ages, the frequency of elder abuse is likely to increase over the coming years, that is, if nothing is done to prevent this from happening. It is currently estimated that between four and 10 percent of Canadian seniors experience some form of abuse. Abuse can take many forms including physical, psychological or emotional, sexual, and financial; the latter being most commonly reported type of elder abuse. In many cases, more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time.
More and more resources are becoming available both for seniors who feel they may be being abused and are looking for support, and for people who are concerned that someone they know might be being abused. According to a recent survey, one in five Canadians says they know of a senior who they suspect may be experiencing some form of abuse.
For information about this issue, from understanding the types of abuse and the consequences of abuse to recognizing when someone is in an abusive situation and how to take action the Quebec Government has produced a number of publications which are available online and from the Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence offices. All requests for information will be treated confidentially.
Elder Abuse Helpline: 1-888-489-ABUS (2287)