Jean Crowder's Article on Elder Abuse for the Cowichan Valley Citizen August, 2012
Each month my office identifies trends in the emails, letters and phone calls coming in to my office.
This month, the trending topic is elder abuse, with many constituents urging me to help raise awareness of the issue and look for opportunities to reduce its incidence.
There are more than five million Canadians over the age of 65.
After a lifetime of hard work, raising a family and contributing to the growth of their community, seniors have the right to grow old with respect, in comfort and dignity.
Unfortunately, many of them are victims of abuse and negligence, sometimes by their close relatives. These abuses can be physical, psychological, financial, sexual or even spiritual. Statistics Canada reports that incidences of violence against seniors rose 20 per cent between 1998 and 2005.
During the 2011 election campaign, then NDP leader Jack Layton promised to bring in changes to increase the penalties for anyone convicted of elder abuse.
He also called for a National Elder Abuse Strategy, including the creation of services to help seniors and their families deal with situations of abuse.
The Conservative government did move to make age-related abuse an aggravating factor when abusers are sentenced.
However, they have not taken concrete steps to help service providers understand and develop their own strategies for recognizing and dealing with abuse of their clients.
This spring a report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women that said that the government doesn’t know how widespread elder abuse is because it doesn’t collect the necessary information to identify abuse among the elderly.
The committee wrote that elder abuse is under-reported to law enforcement agencies. As well, data on victimization and crime reporting do not provide specific information about elder abuse.
Not knowing the extent of elder abuse is compounded by social and health-care workers, lawyers, judges and police not knowing how to report and respond to incidents of elder abuse.
The same holds true for banks which understand their legal obligations and client’s autonomy but don’t understand the risk factors for financial abuse. When abuse is suspected, not many financial institutions have clear strategies for dealing with the problem.
That is one of the reasons the committee also called on the government to provide stable, on-going funding for awareness campaigns instead of ad hoc funding that prevents groups from developing campaigns.
New Democrats will keep fighting to make sure that elder abuse is identified and communities and families have the tools they need to support seniors. Please go to my website at www.jeancrowder.ca for a list of services in Duncan and area.
We all need to speak out against elder abuse, denounce it and ensure that the seniors receive the respect they deserve.