Elder abuse is the intentional act or failure to act that creates risk or harm to an elder breaking the relationship that involves an expectation of trust.
There are five main types of elder abuse.
- Physical Abuse: Non-accidental injuries that come from a caregiver, whether it was intentional or not.
- Neglect: When the basic needs are not met, for example food, shelter, medical needs, educational needs, and emotional needs.
- Sexual Abuse: Engage in or expose to any form of inappropriate sexual conditions.
- Emotional Abuse: Hindering emotional growth with threats, rejection, or insults.
- Financial Abuse: Misuse of funds and/ or assets.
What does elder abuse look like?
Some signs symptoms can include, mouth or tooth problems, body pain and weakness, signs of dehydration, such as dry skin, eyes, or mouth, urinating little or nothing, or dizziness; depression or a health condition that has worsened; poor hygiene including dirty clothing or bedding; changes in behaviour and weight loss. However some forms don’t have noticeable symptoms such as financial abuse.
How to prevent elder abuse?
- Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone. Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive such as pension cheques (OAS, CPP).
- Have bills automatically paid from your bank account such as your telephone or utilities bills.
- Do not sign any documents you do not understand and if under pressure to sign.
- Do not be guilt-tripped into doing something you are not in agreement with.
- Update Will and Power of Attorney documents yearly or as relationships change.
- Only grant an attorney Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care to a person that you know, trust and whom you know will respect your wishes. Write into your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property instructions regarding when it is to come into effect
- Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
- Read all legal documents carefully, including the fine print, do not lend money without a formal payback schedule…unless it’s a gift.
- Be careful when co-signing loans or signing over ownership of your home.
- Ensure that property and materials which are borrowed are returned.
- Keep your home secure and do not leave valuables or large amounts of cash lying around.
What you can do as a concerned loved one or friend?
- Watch for warning signs that might indicate elder abuse. If you suspect abuse, report it.
- Look for any discrepancies in the elder’s medications.
- You can look for possible financial abuse. Ask the elder if you may scan bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
- It helps to call and visit as often as you can. This can help the elder consider you a trusted family member or loved one.
- You can offer to stay with the elder so the caregiver can have a break.
If an elder is experiencing abuse they may feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone in fear of retaliation or punishment. It is important to seek help because abuse can lead to negative health effects. If you or someone you love is being abuse there is help and resources all around. Check out elder abuse Ontario or their confidential senior’s safety hotline 1-866-299-1011.
Check out Loving Support’s blog next month where we discuss tips for summer.