Elder abuse warning issued

Terrace workshop teaches community leaders about the vulnerability of an aging population

The fastest growing segment of B.C. society is the 85+ demographic and the number of seniors is going to double to almost 25 per cent of the population in coming years.

In light of these stats, those at a city-hosted workshop put on by the BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support  March 25 learned about how this vulnerable segment of the Terrace community should be cared for and about avenues for help.

While hard statistics don’t exist, workshop leader Lin Chen from the centre said each month her organization is “increasingly getting 300 to 400 calls from seniors and other reporting issues and incidents.” Those who attended the workshop, including health care, social workers and city officials, had the chance to explore issues of discrimination and abuse against old people.

“With financial manipulation it can also involve emotional, psychological and physical abuse,” said Chen. “Abusers see the opportunity to take advantage and present themselves as a helping hand to seniors to take advantage of them at a later time.”

Like much abuse, that suffered by seniors is frequently carried out by persons the victim knows. A common example might be an elder who is “related to an abuser, a spouse or partner, who has mental health or substance abuse issues and takes it out on their partner,” says Chen.

“An adult child might lose their job and asks to stay in the basement. They might end up just hanging around and putting on more pressure, not helping out, inviting friends over who [ruin] the place.”

Even neglect, not providing care or assistance to dependent person is also a form of abuse, Chen noted.

By offering a help line, her organization exists to mediate, provide advice, educate. She said this can be the form of advice to an elder to help them solve the problem themselves or providing legal options, possible laying criminal charges.

Jessica Gaus, who works for Volunteer Terrace and who helped host the workshop said that elder abuse can frequently go unnoticed.

“Most often abuse stems from spousal relationships and financial abuse,” said Gaus.

The workshop also noted that sometimes elders are ignored.