Reporting

Why do seniors seldom report elder abuse?

Often seniors are reluctant to report abuse to the police or other authorities. The following is a list of reasons that create barriers to reporting:

  • Fear of retaliation – afraid of what the abuser will do to them if they report the abuse
  • Dependence on the abuser for food, shelter, clothing, and health care
  • Afraid they will be put in an institution, such as a Long-Term Home
  • Pride and embarrassment from telling anyone that a family member is harming them, or stealing their money
  • Feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness especially when the abuser is very controlling
  • Inability to communicate due to language barrier or health/illness such as dementia
  • Believe the police and/or social agencies cannot help them
  • Lack of understanding of their legal and human rights or the justice system
  • Unaware that abuse is occurring in their lives or within their environment
  • Not familiar with who or where to make a report

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Why is elder abuse often not reported by service providers or community members?

Many times people do not know who to make the report to

  • Not aware of who to speak to within their organization or community
  • Unsure of what can be done to help resolve the situation
  • Do not want to get involved in other people’s family problems
  • The older person asks the person not to report it.

There are other reasons why service providers may not report elder abuse:

  • Feel they have a confidential relationship with their client and cannot tell anyone else about what happens in the client’s home
  • Do not know that assault, theft, or serious neglect in the family or in a long‑term care home is a crime
  • Afraid of the abuser and of going into the home after the abuse is reported
  • Might believe that the police cannot help because the older person would not be physically able to testify in court, or
  • Think nothing can be done because the older person might deny the abuse is happening.

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When is it mandatory to report elder abuse?

Reporting is mandatory when an older adult resides in a Long-term Care Home or a Retirement Home and elder abuse is suspected or has occurred. The law requires reporting by anyone who knows or has reasonable grounds to suspect that a resident has been, or might be, harmed.

 

Are there laws for reporting elder abuse in Retirement Homes?

It is mandatory under the Retirement Homes Act, 2010.  for people to report elder abuse to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) if they suspect harm to retirement home residents.

The legislation (s.75. (1), states a person who has reasonable grounds to suspect that any of the following has occurred or may occur shall immediately report the suspicion and information upon which it is based to the Registrar:

  • Improper or incompetent treatment or care of a resident that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.
  • Abuse of a resident by anyone or neglect of a resident by the licensee or the staff of the retirement home of the resident if it results in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.
  • Unlawful conduct that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to a resident.
  • Misuse or misappropriation of a resident’s money.

The abuse must be reported to the Registrar of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority

Tel: 1-855-ASK-RHRA (1-855-275-7472) 

 

What happens when I make a report to the Retirement Home Authority?

The Retirement Home Authority review the information to determine if an inspector will visit the retirement home to investigate the allegation. If an inspection is done, the home will receive a copy of the inspection and has up to 10 business days to respond to the findings.

The final inspection report, which does not contain resident’s names or confidential information, is posted on the RHRA’s Retirement Home Database and in the retirement home.

 

Who must Report abuse in Retirement Homes?

The obligation to report applies to everyone, including retirement staff, directors and operators, service providers, family members, substitute decision makers, and volunteers. They all have the same responsibility to help protect the resident. Members of regulated health care professions, social workers, and naturopaths must report even if the information is otherwise confidential. A person is guilty of an offence if they fail to report elder abuse

Retirement home residents may report, but they are not required to.
The RHRA may take action against those who discourage complaints, threaten or retaliate against a person who files a complaint. This may include fines or even prosecution.

Individuals have the option to report anonymously or provide their contact information to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA). RHRA staff will follow up with you, if your contact information is provided, if more information is required.

When reporting an incident, the RHRA will ask you to provide:

  • the name of the home
  • a description of what happened
  • when and where it happened (i.e., inside or outside the home)
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Are there laws for reporting elder abuse in Long-Term Care Homes?

Yes, the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 indicates that it is mandatory to report to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,  abuse when you suspect or have evidence that elder abuse is taking place in a long‑term care home.

The LTCH Act (s.24) states if a person who has reasonable grounds to suspect abuse has occurred or may occur shall immediately report the suspicion and the information to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Director.

People must report if they know or suspect that a resident has been, or might be, harmed by:

  • improper or incompetent treatment or care
  • abuse by anyone, including staff, family, other visitors, or other residents
  • neglect by staff or the owner of the home
  • someone misusing their money or committing fraud against them
  • someone misusing or committing fraud with public funds given to a long-term care home
  • other illegal behaviour

There are provisions in the Act to protect residents from elder abuse, including the duty to protect, promoting zero tolerance of abuse and reporting, details of the legislation are available in Section 19 Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.

Improper or incompetent treatment or care of a resident that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.

  • Abuse of a resident by anyone or neglect of a resident by the licensee or staff that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.
  • Unlawful conduct that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to a resident.
  • Misuse or misappropriation of a resident’s money.

Persons are guilty of an offence if they fail to make a report

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Who must report abuse in Long-Term Care Home?

There is mandatory reporting by any person, except a resident, of the following which resulted in either harm or a risk of harm to the resident:

The only people who do not have to report abuse are other residents of the home, who have a choice in the matter. This means that people visiting a home must report, even if the person they are visiting is not the one being abused.

Social workers and members of health-care professions that are regulated by the government must report, even if it is information they would normally keep confidential.

If the victim lives in a Long-term care home, the abuse must be reported to the Director at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Long Term Care ACTION Line:

Tel:  1-866-434-0144(7 days a week, 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

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What happens when I make a report to the Long-Term Care Home ACTION Line

The Director or the Registrar must look into all reports of abuse. They must send an inspector to the home immediately if the report is about harm or risk of harm due to:

The operator of a Long-Term Care Home must contact the police immediately if there is an alleged, suspected, or witnessed incident of abuse or neglect of a resident which may be a crime.

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If the victim of elder abuse does not live in a long-term care home or retirement home?

The law does not require anyone to report the abuse. But sometimes, a person’s job responsibilities or professional code of conduct might require them to report.

Victims, or anyone else who suspects elder abuse, can report their concerns to the police or to health or social services, or get advice from a lawyer. No matter where abuse and serious neglect happens, it may be a crime.

People can report abuse to Crime Stoppers at 1-800‑222-8477

 

Seniors Safety Line

The SSL provides contact and referral information for local agencies across the province that can assist in cases of elder abuse Trained counsellors also provide safety planning and supportive counselling for older adults who are being abused or at risk of abuse. Family members and service providers can also call for information about community services.
Tel: 1-866-299-1011

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How Do You Report Possible Elder Abuse?

If you become aware that an elderly person is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call 911 immediately.

If you know or even suspect that someone is suffering abuse from a caregiver, nursing home, or another party, you have options for making a report. Consider contacting one of the following resources:

  • Local law enforcement authorities

Although you do not have to provide your name or any personal information, be prepared to answer questions about the situation. The individual or agency you contact may want to know basic information such as:

  • Whether you believe the victim is being abused or neglected
  • Any health conditions or medical problems the victim has
  • Details regarding the nature of the suspected abuse
  • Family contacts or support resources available to the victim

If you are an older adult who is being abused, tell someone. You can call the authorities or if you prefer, confide in someone you trust such as:

  • Your doctor or another medical care provider
  • A trusted friend or family member
  • Your clergyperson or spiritual leader
  • Someone you know in the community

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What Happens after you report a suspected case of  Elder Abuse?

Based on the circumstances of the suspected abuse and who you reported to, a qualified responder will likely be sent to interview the victim. If the interviewer determines that abuse may be occurring, they may contact family members or refer appropriate resources.

If the victim is not forthcoming or unable to communicate effectively with the interviewer, they may not be able to take any action. In that case, it may be up to you to take further action to protect the victim.

Next steps to consider include:

  • Removing the victim from the situation and moving them to a safe location
  • Reaching out to elder abuse or care resources to learn more about your options

If you cannot get the cooperation and assistance you need from local resources or agencies, talking to a legal professional may be the most effective way to get the victim help.

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What Can The Police Do?

Concerns about suspected or actual abuse should be reported to the police for investigation. A person reporting abuse may remain anonymous, however, it is often useful for the police to have a contact number in case they require some clarifying information. The person reporting the abuse can request that his or her identity be kept anonymous from the abuser, but it may be divulged through the Freedom of Information or a court proceeding.

The police will determine whether or not to investigate a report based on many different factors. Investigations include gathering all relevant evidence and interviewing all potential witnesses. Relevant evidence may be a signed statement from the abused senior, statements from others that may have evidence, such as, family, friends, neighbours, caregivers, medical reports, financial records and photographs of the injuries.

Police can lay Criminal Code charges if they have reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed. Additional support can be provided by the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (VCARS) and/ or the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP). VCARS is a community response program providing immediate on-site service to victims of crimes or tragedies, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With consent from the victim, police officers can call on VCARS to send a team of trained volunteers to provide on-site, short-term assistance to victims and make referrals to community agencies for longer-term assistance. VWAP services are available to the most vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime from the time charges have been laid until disposition of the court case.

Should the abused senior be asked to testify in court, the Victim/Witness Assistance Program will assist him or her throughout the court process. The police can be helpful in connecting the abused senior to these important supports.

Even if the abuse is not a criminal matter, the police can be very helpful in connecting the senior to various supports such as community resources and make referrals to other agencies as needed. The police can provide information about the criminal process and what is involved for the victim or witness. They can explain the workings of the criminal justice system and what to expect with respect to possible outcomes and options.

Many police departments have officers who specialize in seniors issues, sometimes referred to as Seniors Support Officers (SSO) who are well informed about abuse. Seniors and the general public are encouraged to call to talk about their concerns and these officers can provide them with valuable information about different options and resources.

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Criminal Offences Related to Elder Abuse

In Canada, certain categories of abuse, such as fraud, assault, sexual assault, uttering threats and criminal harassment are crimes under the Canadian Criminal Code. Elder abuse is not a separate offence but covered by the current code. An action that is a Criminal Code offence does not cease to be an offence because the person is a senior.

The following Chart outlines, types of offences related to elder abuse in the Criminal Code of Canada.

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What Can The Police Do?

Concerns about suspected or actual abuse should be reported to the police for investigation. A person reporting abuse may remain anonymous, however, it is often useful for the police to have a contact number in case they require some clarifying information. The person reporting the abuse can request that his or her identity be kept anonymous from the abuser but it may be divulged through the Freedom of Information or a court proceedings.

The police will determine whether or not to investigate a report based on many different factors. Investigations include gathering all relevant evidence and interviewing all potential witnesses. Relevant evidence may be a signed statement from the abused senior, statements from others that may have evidence, such as, family, friends, neighbours, caregivers, medical reports, financial records and photographs of the injuries.

Police can lay Criminal Code charges if they have reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed. Additional support can be provided by the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (VCARS) and/ or the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP).

Should the abused senior be asked to testify in court, the Victim/Witness Assistance Program will assist him or her throughout the court process. The police can be helpful in connecting the abused senior to these important supports.

Even if the abuse is not a criminal matter, the police can be very helpful in connecting the senior to various supports such as community resources and make referrals to other agencies as needed. The police can provide information about the criminal process and what is involved for the victim or witness. They can explain the workings of the criminal justice system and what to expect with respect to possible outcomes and options.

Many police departments have officers who specialize in seniors issues, sometimes referred to as Seniors Support Officers (SSO) who are well informed about abuse. Seniors and the general public are encouraged to call to talk about their concerns and these officers can provide them with valuable information about different options and resources.

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Other Options for Reporting

911

If you are concerned about an older adult who is at significant risk of harm, is being abused, requires urgent care or it is an emergency, call 911.

Senior Crime Stoppers

Ontario has also developed a province wide Seniors Crime Stoppers program to allow anyone to anonymously report incidents of elder abuse. This information will be forwarded to the police without fear of the caller being identified.
To report an incident of elder abuse anonymously call:
 1-800-222-TIPS.

Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) –

OPGT is responsible for protecting mentally incapable people; other responsibilities include protecting the public’s interest in charities, searching for heirs, investing perpetual care funds, and dealing with dissolved corporations. In cases of financial or personal abuse, the OPGT can apply to the court to become the abused senior’s guardian on a temporary basis. The OPGT can also help the person get access to other services. They can intervene only if the person is believed to be mentally incapable and is at risk of harm or experiencing harm. There must be evidence/reason to believe that the person is incapable before the OPGT will investigate.

Investigation Unit:

Legal Advice

Advocacy Centre for the Elderly

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is a community based legal clinic for low income senior citizens. ACE provides direct legal services to low-income seniors, public legal education, and engages in law reform activities. ACE services and activities are in relation to areas of law of special importance to the seniors’ population.


Legal Aid Ontario

Legal Aid Ontario provides legal assistance for low-income people. Services include: legal representation for eligible clients who appear in court without a lawyer; legal aid applications and information over the phone; legal resources and referrals to other social assistance agencies; and a certificate program for complex and serious cases.

  • Connects low-income Ontarians to legal aid services, assistance and information.
  • Get legal aid help in over 200 languages.
  • Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258
  • Website: legalaid.on.ca


Law Society Referral Service (LSRS)

Law Society Referral Service will provide you with the name of a lawyer or licensed paralegal who will provide a free consultation of up to 30 minutes to help you determine your rights and options.

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