Preventing elder abuse is a shared responsibility.
The abuse of older adults is everyone’s business. By being knowledgeable about elder abuse you can help prevent it, recognize the signs, and take steps to intervene safely. It’s important to remember that EVERYONE can help and has a role to play to prevent elder abuse.
There are many actions older adults and other community members can take to prevent elder abuse. Here are some of them:
Stay active and connected
- Maintain regular contact with friends, family and support networks.
- Stay active in the community – volunteer, go on outings with friends and visit neighbours. Isolation increases vulnerability to abuse.
- Have your own phone and open your own mail.
- Familiarize yourself with services for seniors, attend local health fairs to ask questions and pick up written materials.
- Take control of your own decisions and health care.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- If something feels wrong and you think you may be abused, tell someone you trust.
Plan for your future and communicate your wishes
- It is good to plan ahead, while you are independent and mentally capable.
- Establish a Power of Attorney or a Living Will, and advance care planning early. These documents will help you ensure that your financial and health care decisions are respected. They will help avoid confusion or tensions with your loved ones later on.
- Which person(s) do you want to make health care/financial decisions for you when you can’t?
- What kind of medical treatment do/don’t you want? etc.
- Think carefully before making changes to your living situation such as moving in with family or friends or having someone move into your home, especially if they promise to take care of you.
- Seek alternative options for care beyond family members.
Advocate for your rights:
- If you are not satisfied with care services you receive in your home or care facility, voice the challenges you are encountering and place a complaint if necessary.
- Educate yourself about your rights and the signs of elder abuse.
- Report abuse when you see it.
Protect your finances/property
- Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone.
- Do not lend money without a formal payback schedule (unless it’s a gift).
- Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive, i.e. pension cheques (OAS, CPP etc.).
- Have bills automatically paid from your bank account such as your telephone or utilities bills.
- Do not sign any documents you do not understand or feel under pressure to sign from anyone.
- Do not let someone guilt-trip you into doing something you are not comfortable with.
- Read all legal documents carefully, including the fine print.
- Be careful when co-signing loans or signing over ownership of your home.
- Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
- Ensure that property/materials which are borrowed are returned.
- Keep your home secure and do not leave valuables or large amounts of cash lying around.
- Be informed about financial affairs.
- Update Will and Power of Attorney documents yearly or as relationships change.
- Only grant an attorney (Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and/or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care) to a person(s) 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.
Caregiving is both a rewarding and demanding experience. Sometimes when a caregiver doesn’t have access to the right support to help them care for their loved one and for themselves, they may feel overwhelmed and act in an abusive manner – most often unintentionally. If you are a caregiver, here is what you can do:
- Treat all seniors with respect and dignity.
- Learn about the signs of elder abuse and neglect.
- Maintain your health and social connections.
- Request help from friends, relatives, or local agencies, so you can take a break.
- If the older adult you care for has dementia or cognitive impairments, inquire about adult day programs or respite care services.
- Join a support group for caregivers, such as those offered by the Alzheimer Society.
- Seek medical care or counselling to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol use, there are many support lines and agencies available in Ontario.
- Call the Seniors Safety Line (1-866-299-1011) or other telephone helplines for information on local services or guidance to deal with potential elder abuse.
Educating seniors, caregivers, professionals, and the public about elder abuse is critical to enhance prevention. As a member of a community, you can take active steps toward prevention and assist seniors who are experiencing abuse or at-risk of abuse.
- Become involved in your local elder abuse prevention committee or network.
- Learn about local agencies and organizations that support older adults, and which ones intervene when abuse is reported. Learn when, where and how to report abuse.
- Watch for warning signs, if you suspect abuse, report it.
- Learn about seniors’ rights and advocate for them.
- Engage in the planning of educational sessions on elder abuse, prevention and seniors’ rights.
- Stay connected with senior friends, neighbours or relatives, invite them out to lunch, visit them, or phone them.
Agencies / Organizations
- Provide training to your staff and/or volunteers to teach them how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect.
- Conduct Criminal Background Checks and Vulnerable Sector Screening Checks when hiring staff and/or volunteers whose responsibilities involve providing care or assistance to seniors and place them in a position of trust.
- Offer counselling services or peer support groups for seniors and caregivers.
- Advocate for seniors and their families.
- Become involved in a local elder abuse network.
- Discuss any concerns you have about a senior client with a supervisor to prevent further abuse.
- If a senior disclosed they are experiencing abuse or are being taken advantage of, believe them and offer your support. Developing a trusting relationship is important.
- Learn about the agencies where you can report, get help or information on elder abuse.