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Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?

Definitions

Physical Abuse - The infliction of physical pain or injury, physical coercion, rough handling, slapping, hitting, pinching, kicking and sexual assault.

Psychological Abuse - Scream or yell at, any behaviour which is insulting, threatening, humiliating, intimidating or infantilizing, withholding of affection, denial of privileges or removal of decision making power.

Financial Abuse - Theft, any dishonest use of conversion of elders' money or property, misuse of power of attorney.

Neglect - Failing to provide the necessities of life which could include medical, dental or spiritual needs, adequate heat, clothing, hygienic conditions, social isolation or confinement.

Indicators of Abuse

Physical Abuse - Unexplained bruises, burns falls, fractures, grip marks, rope marks, swelling, welts or sores which have not been treated/partially healed.

Psychological Abuse - Low self-esteem, withdrawn or passive, give information reluctantly or allows caregiver to answer questions, fearful - particularly when caregiver is present, depressed, difficult to contact.

Financial Abuse - Elder cannot account for large sums of money, elder has signed documents without fully understanding, caregiver may attempt to do banking for elder without permission, elder has an unexplained discrepancy between known income and standard of living.

Neglect - Unkempt appearance, missing glasses, dentures or hearing aid, weakness, malnourished, dehydrated, have reduced mental or physical activity.

Why Does Elder Abuse Occur?

The Abuser Profile

Although there is no single cause for why abuse occurs, many researchers have found common characteristics of an abusive caregiver. These include the possibilities that the caregiver may:

  • Be inexperienced in working with the elderly, in that they lack knowledge and understanding of the aging process.
  • Have a negative attitude toward elderly people (ageism).
  • Be an alcoholic or drug abuser.
  • Be experiencing stress due to low finances, trying to meet the needs of a demanding caregiver role, and/or trying to fulfill the needs of the elder and own family simultaneously.
  • Have a history of family violence.
  • Be isolated, due to the fact of the caregiver role.
  • Be mentally ill.

The Victim Profile

Although no one is immune to the possibility of abuse, the majority of studies have found that an elderly person may be at risk if they are:

  • Female
  • 75 years or older
  • Excessively loyal and/or dependent on their caregiver.
  • Living within an isolated environment, with few contacts.
  • Physically or cognitively impaired.

Reasons For Under Reporting

There are several reasons why abuse cases may go unreported. These include professionals or laypersons:

  • May not know how to detect abuse.
  • May not know who to report an abuse case to.
  • Hold the belief that confidentiality will not be maintained.
  • Fear of job loss due to reporting an abuse case.

The elderly themselves may be reluctant to report abuse because:

  • The elderly believe that family situations are sacred and should not be interfered with from outsiders.
  • The elderly may fear reprisals (i.e. institutionalization or more abuse).
  • The elderly are ashamed or embarrassed of the behaviour of the caregiver.
  • The elderly may believe that because of their dependency, they are the cause of the abuse.

What can be done about Elder Abuse?

  • Although there is no mandatory reporting for elder abuse in the community, certain steps can be taken to ensure the safety of the abused.
  • Those who witness an abuse case may be reluctant to call without proof. It is not necessary to have proof of abuse before seeking assistance from an agency.
  • Theft, fraud, forgery, assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life are criminal offences. These should be reported to the police.
  • One must keep in mind that all persons, including seniors are free to make their own decisions. This includes refusing help. If an abused elder declines any assistance, continue periodic contact.
  • There is legislation for mandatory reporting in cases of abuse, neglect or improper treatment of residents in Nursing Homes and Homes for the Aged. Any suspicion of abuse must be reported to the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Sarnia and Lambton County Contacts

Victim Services of Sarnia-Lambton
(519) 344-8861 ext. 5238 or (519) 1-888-281-3665 ext. 5238

Lambton Health Unit Sarnia (519) 383-8331
Petrolia (519) 882-2080
Forest (519) 786-2148

Lambton Elderly Outreach
Toll Free 1-800-265-0203

Local Police Department or Local Detachment of the O.P.P.
Sarnia Lambton Elder Abuse Resource Committee
Committee of: service providers, nurses, doctors and related health care professionals, legal, police and social workers.
Role of Committee: Educate, Advocate, Information Source, Interagency Support.

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