It is estimated that 8-10%, or approximately 750,000 seniors in Canada experience elder abuse. However, elder abuse is also one of the most underreported crimes in the country, leading researchers and experts in the field to believe the actual numbers are much greater.

There are many reasons why incidences of elder abuse go unreported. To learn more Amintro reached out to Jayne Culbert of the Peel Elder Abuse Prevention Network.

“Whether a senior has been abused by a stranger, friend or member of their own family, there is a sense of embarrassment and incompetence. With something like a financial scam, they can’t believe that they were ‘duped’ and may fear being seen as incapable and having their independence taken away by being put into a seniors home or through some other sort of punishment.”

Ms. Culbert adds that when it comes to other incidences of abuse there may be a sense of pride where a senior doesn’t want to disclose that their own child has taken money from them, or is being abusive or neglectful. Speaking up would put a black mark on the family or could lead to further punishment and abuse.

Other factors that may prevent someone from speaking up include being dependent upon a caregiver and feeling as though there are no other options than to endure the abuse, or being unable to report the crime due to mobility or speaking issues, or being cognitively impaired.

This is why it is important to have a strong social network of people who will keep your best interests at heart. For seniors, meeting new people and staying informed can reduce their risk of being abused as they age. Having people to confide in, talk things over with, and show support and encouragement can help seniors acknowledge and confidently confront abusive behaviour. Close friends and family will also be able to note if something seems wrong, helping to uncover a problem situation.

Ms. Culbert notes that seniors who are socially isolated may be at greater risk of financial scams. “When a person is isolated and they get a phone call or someone knocking on the door, they want to talk and keep the conversation going. They also don’t have anyone else to consult with before making a decision. They can be easily coerced into giving away money or opening themselves up to other forms of abuse.”

If you have been or feel as though you are being taken advantage of or abused, reaching out to a lawyer may be the next step.

Financial abuse of incapable persons, psychological abuse (usually in the form of undue influence) and breach of fiduciary duties under power of attorney documents are the most common cases Lawyer Kavina Nagrani deals with at the Law Firm of Loopstra Nixon LLP in Etobicoke. Specializing in Elder Law, Wills and Estates, Nagrani encourages anyone experiencing signs of elder abuse to reach out for information and support in order to take corrective action.

“There are numerous resources available with regards to elder abuse prevention, awareness and support. Even if you are not sure if you have any legal recourse, it is a good idea to seek legal advice from a lawyer that deals with elder law issues. What’s even more important in my view, is for seniors and their families to engage with a lawyer to plan for the inevitable journey of aging. The opportunity to prevent elder abuse exists with the right plans and legal documents in place.  Simply having a Will or Power of Attorney is often not enough.  It’s about having a detailed and comprehensive Will and  Powers of Attorneys made with the right plan and relevant advice that can make all of the difference” says Ms. Nagrani.

Elder abuse is not something people hear about often, and may not give it much thought before it happens. This is why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is important. Celebrated internationally by the World Health Organization each year on June 15, it is a time to grow the conversation and bring education and awareness to the forefront.

More information is available on the Peel Elder Abuse Prevention Network at www.peapn.ca.

Written by Christine Tompa for Amintro.

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