How Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

The abuse of older adults is everyone’s business. Seniors and community members need to be informed about elder abuse, be able to recognize the signs and be engaged in taking steps to prevent it. It’s important to remember that EVERYONE can help and has a role to play to prevent elder abuse.
Knowledge is the key to prevention… it is possible to prevent elder abuse. Specific prevention strategies may be required depending on the situation and type of abuse occurring.
There are many actions seniors and community members can take to prevent elder abuse. The following are some ACTIONS that can assist in the prevention of elder abuse.

Preventative Actions Seniors Can Take

Protecting Finances/Property

  • Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone
  • Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive, i.e., 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 or are under pressure to sign from anyone
  • 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/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
  • 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/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

Health and Wellbeing

  • 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
  • Plan for your future while you are still independent and mentally capable. Have a Power of Attorney or a Living Will to express how you want to address your finances and health care decisions to avoid confusion and family problems later
  • Maintain contact with loved ones and connections 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.
  • Seek alternative options for care, do not only rely only on family members for your care and social life
  • Take control of your own decisions and health care
  • Educate yourself about your rights and the signs to recognize elder abuse
  • Have your own phone and open your own mail
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Become educated about services for seniors, attend local health fairs to ask questions and pick up written materials
  • Report abuse when you see it
  • If you are not satisfied with care services you receive in your home or care facility (improper treatment/yelling), voice the challenges you are encountering.

Advocating Your Rights: Communicating Wishes and Planning

  • Which person do you want to make health care/financial decisions for you when you can’t?
  • What kind of medical treatment do you want?
  • How do you want people to treat you?
  • What do you want them to know?

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Preventative Actions Caregivers Can Take

Caring for seniors is a rewarding experience. Caregiving can be demanding, when a caregiver becomes overwhelmed and does not have the coping skills and/or supports to care for their loved one, they may act in an abusive manner – most often not intentionally.

  • Learn about the signs of elder abuse and neglect
  • Treat all seniors with respect and dignity
  • Request help from friends, relatives, or local agencies, so you can take a break,
  • If the older adult has dementia or cognitive impairments, inquire about adult day programs or respite care services
  • Maintain your health and social connections
  • Seek medical care or counselling to deal with stress, anxiety, depression when necessary
  • Participate in support group for caregivers, such as the Alzheimer Society
  • Seek intervention services if you are experiencing drug or alcohol abuse, there are many support lines and agencies available in Ontario
  • Call the Seniors Safety Line or other telephone helplines for access to information on local services or seek guidance on dealing with potential elder abuse
  • If you feel you need help to care for your loved one – call to make arrangements for additional care services

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Preventative Actions Community Members Can Take

Everyone has a role in the prevention of elder abuse. Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public on abuse is critical to elder abuse prevention. The community can be engaged in taking active steps to assist seniors who are experiencing abuse or at-risk of abuse.

  • Become involved in your local elder abuse prevention committee or network
  • Learn when, where and how to report abuse
  • Engage in the planning of educational sessions on elder abuse, prevention and seniors rights.
  • Learn about senior’s rights and inform them of their rights
  • Invite a senior friend, neighbour or relative out to lunch, visit them, or phone them to keep connections
  • Learn about local agencies and organizations that support older adults as well as respond to reports of abuse so you are aware of what services are available and how to access them when necessary.
  • Watch for warning signs, if you suspect abuse, report it.

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Preventative Actions Agencies / Organizations Can Take

  • Provide training to staff/volunteers to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect.
  • Conduct Criminal Background Checks and Vulnerable Sector Screening Checks when hiring staff and/or volunteers that are providing care or assistance to seniors and are in a position of trust with vulnerable individuals
  • Offer counselling services or peer support groups for seniors and caregivers
  • Become involved in a local elder abuse network
  • Advocate for seniors and their families when necessary
  • 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.

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