According to research done by Statistics Canada, elder abuse has risen by 14 precent since 2004. For every case that is reported, numerous other cases are not. Abuse and neglect can have lifelong consequences on the victim and often result in an early death.
Since most elder abuse is perpetrated by family or friend caregivers, it is essential that it will be prevented before it begins and reporting it if it is happening.
Three things you can do to help prevent elder abuse:
- You can listen to seniors and those who care for them.
- You can get involved if you suspect abuse.
- You can work with others to recognize and report abuse.
As a family caregiver
If you feel overwhelmed with your daily responsibilities, ask for help. You can talk to other family members or friends, or seek the assistance of homecare services to give you a break.
Take care of yourself and do not neglect your health needs. Get rest, exercise, and eat healthy meals. Find a support group for caregivers. You need to seek counselling if you are suffering from depression or substance abuse, which can often lead to abuse.
As a Family Member of Friend
If you suspect abuse, report it. Learn to look for warning signs and do not brush off your concerns as unreasonable. You never know who will be abused; most of the time the abuser does not look like the type you would expect. Offer to visit the senior on a regular basis to give the family caregiver a break. This allows you the chance to talk with the senior and learn more about their home life. They may be more willing to open up to you if they are away from their family caregiver.
As the Senior
You can protect yourself and prevent being abused if you know what to do. Make sure you know your financial status or get a trusted advisor to work with you. Keep in touch with family and friends to reduce your vulnerability. If you are concerned about the care you receive or your caregiver’s attitude, tell someone. Do not wait until it escalates into a more serious situation.
If your primary caregiver seems stressed out or depressed, contact a counsellor or other professional. You can also speak with any senior services providers about ways you can get additional help to relief your primary caregiver.
How to Report Abuse
You have to tell the right people if you suspect abuse. Telling someone who will not carry the information any further will not stop the abuse. However, many people do not know who to report elder abuse to.
You can contact your local police authorities if you suspect abuse. Other people who can help you include medical providers, clergy, and senior services. They will know the appropriate steps to take next, depending on the situation the senior is living in.
For physical abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they can find a shelter and assistance programs. Eldercare Locator can find local programs to assist overwhelmed caregivers with finding local adult day care or other help.
You can also contact a professional counsellor to get help if you are the abusive caregiver. If you are a senior being abused, counselling can also guide you on what to do next. INFOLINK can provide information on counselling and support groups. Many times, the abuse is not at the level where it needs to be reported to criminal authorities. If the abuser is willing to get help, many resources are available to get them the treatment they need and provide assistance with the care for their loved one.
However, if at any time a senior is in danger of physical harm or is living in a life-threatening situation, it is essential that any intervention be aggressive. The quickest way to get them to safety is to contact local authorities or those who specialize in working with domestic abuse victims.
To prevent elder abuse that results from an overwhelmed, exhausted caregiver, you can contact homecare services. At Carefect Homecare Services, we provide caregivers who can assist with housekeeping, personal care, and respite care to give the family a break. Our caregivers can assist with errands, laundry, and preparing meals to reduce the responsibility the family has. We can even take the senior out for recreational activities and provide companionship so they will have someone to talk to. Do not wait for abuse to happen; get help before it does.