Elder Abuse Awareness Day

The United Nations has declared June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to call attention to the scope of the human rights problem and what we can do to prevent it.*

What is elder abuse?

According to Elder Abuse Ontario, elder abuse is any action—single or repeated—that can harm a senior. It can happen in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust or where a person is in a position of power or authority. It can be physical, emotional, verbal (e.g. name calling), financial (e.g. taking money), sexual or spiritual.

What are the effects?

Beyond any immediate physical effects of an injury, the stress of abuse can cause long-term negative health consequences and can trigger chest pain or angina, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. That anxiety and depression may be mistaken for memory loss or illness, when they are actually the effects of stress from the abuse.

Financial abuse (stealing or controlling a senior’s income) can lead to that senior being unable to take care of health, housing, and grocery needs, for example.*

What you may not know

Many people think elder abuse only happens to older adults who are mentally incompetent or dependent on other people for constant care. This isn’t the case at all: most abuse happens to competent seniors—and it happens most often within the family.

About 80 per cent of elder abuse goes undetected, with about one in five cases coming to the attention of authorities. Two-thirds of victims are women.

Many seniors don’t reveal their abuse. They sometimes blame themselves, or become afraid of what will happen to them. Common fears include: “Will I be forced from my home?” “Will my abuser go to jail?” “What will people think/say?” *

What can victims of abuse do?

If you are feel you are or may be abused:

  1. Help is available; tell someone you trust what is happening. If someone is hurting or threatening you or it is not safe where you are, call 911 or the police.

  2. On the financial front, carefully consider any requests for money, property or loans, from family, friends or strangers. Be aware of phone scams targeting seniors.

If you know a senior who is being abused:

  1. If you are aware of a crime or dangerous situation happening to a senior, call 911 or the police.

  2. If you aren’t sure abuse is occurring, talk to a health professional or community agency for guidance.

  3. Listen without judging and let the person know you support them; talk about how you can best help them.*

To learn more, visit the Government of Canada site on elder abuse prevention and resources: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/campaigns/elder-abuse.html

* The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance.
1. United Nations. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Background).” Online: https://www.un.org/en/events/elderabuse/background.shtml
2. United Nations. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Home).” Online: https://www.un.org/en/events/elderabuse/index.shtml
3. Elder Abuse Ontario. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Fact Sheet 2: What is abuse of older adults?).
4. Elder Abuse Ontario. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Fact Sheet 4: Signs and Effects).
5. Elder Abuse Ontario. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Fact Sheet 2: What is abuse of older adults?).
6. Elder Abuse Ontario. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (Fact Sheet 6: Help is available).