Elder Abuse is defined by the World Health Organization as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
Elder abuse often occurs when there is an imbalance of control. The abuser either limits or takes control over the rights and freedoms of the senior. The abuse/violence is used to intimidate, humiliate, coerce, frighten or simply to make the senior feel powerless.
Preventative Actions Seniors Can Take
Health and Wellbeing
- Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone
- Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive, i.e., pension cheques (OAS, CPP
- Have bills automatically paid from your bank account such as your telephone or utilities bills
- Do not sign any documents you do not understand or are under pressure to sign from anyone
- Do not be guilt-tripped into doing something you are not in agreement with
- Update Will and Power of Attorney documents yearly or as relationships change
- Only grant an attorney (Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and/or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care) to a person(s) that you know, trust, and whom you know will respect your wishes
- Write into your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property instructions regarding when it is to come into effect
- Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
- Read all legal documents carefully, including the fine print
- Do not lend money without a formal payback schedule…unless it’s a gift
- Be careful when co-signing loans or signing over ownership of your home
- Ensure that property/materials which are borrowed are returned
- Keep your home secure and do not leave valuables or large amounts of cash lying around
- Be informed about financial affairs
- Think carefully before making changes to your living situation such as moving in with family or friends or having someone move into your home, especially if they promise to take care of you
- Plan for your future while you are still independent and mentally capable. Have a Power of Attorney or a Living Will to express how you want to address your finances and health care decisions to avoid confusion and family problems later
- Maintain contact with loved ones and connections with friends, family and support networks
- Stay active in the community – volunteer, go on outings with friends and visit neighbours. Isolation increases vulnerability to abuse.
- Seek alternative options for care, do not only rely only on family members for your care and social life
- Take control of your own decisions and health care
- Educate yourself about your rights and the signs to recognize elder abuse
- Have your own phone and open your own mail
- Ask for help when you need it
- Become educated about services for seniors, attend local health fairs to ask questions and pick up written materials
- Report abuse when you see it
- If you are not satisfied with care services you receive in your home or care facility (improper treatment/yelling), voice the challenges you are encountering.
Advocating Your Rights: Communicating Wishes and Planning
- Which person do you want to make health care/financial decisions for you when you can’t?
- What kind of medical treatment do you want?
- How do you want people to treat you?
- What do you want them to know?