Beth is concerned. And so she should be. It’s estimated that between four and ten per cent of elders in Canada experience some form of physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse.
What can you as a caregiver do? Be alert for signs of abuse, and take action.
“A trigger for me is anytime something has changed,” says Sheila Schuehlein of Elder Abuse Ontario. “If you notice that a person who used to be vocal is suddenly very withdrawn, something’s happened. If a care provider walks in and the conversation stops and eyes are diverted, something’s happened.”
Here are some more signs to watch for:
- Family heirlooms that are no longer in their usual place
- Sudden unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
- Suspicious or forged signatures on cheques
- Low self-esteem, withdrawal
- Evidence of fear
- Reluctance to speak openly
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Unexplained injuries
- Open wounds cuts, punctures
- Signs of being restrained
So, what should you do if you suspect abuse?
- If serious physical harm has occurred, call 911 immediately. Don’t try to intervene yourself.
- Otherwise, call the Seniors Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011. You’ll get information about local agencies and support services.
- To limit the risk of financial abuse, ensure that a Power of Attorney for Property in in place.
- If you’re concerned about the behavior of a paid care provider, escalate the concern to her or his manager. Ensure the organization conducts a full investigation.
- If it’s a family member you suspect of abuse, share your concerns with him or her. Avoid jumping to conclusions and making false accusations. In some instances they don’t even realize that it’s happening.
- Call a local agency and arrange for an in-home “wellness check.”
For more information, visit www.elderabuseontario.com.
Editor's note: In any earlier version of this article, it was stated that some abuse is inadvertent. Any abuse can and should be prevented and the abuser stopped.
Do you have questions about elder abuse? Do you have insights to share with caregivers? Please email us... we’d love to talk to you!