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Elder Abuse

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I am standing at the mail box with a cheque in my hand. It isn’t made out to me – it is for my mother. The thought crosses my mind – “How easy it would be for me to deposit this into my own account.” My siblings wouldn’t notice, my mom wouldn’t even know. Now of course I do NOT do this, but it would not have been difficult for me to. It isn’t difficult to take advantage of people as vulnerable as seniors.

That is why sadly, it happens to seniors every day!

Recently, it was reported that an 82-year-old Thornhill, Ontario widow was scammed over $3,000 by a crooked contractor offering to fix her roof. Without completing the job, the man intimidated the senior who felt threatened. She paid and remained silent, until she discovered she was one of many he’d swindled.

The fact is this sort of thing happens all the time. According to a study by Human Resources and Social Development Canada, up to 10 per cent of Canadian seniors experience some kind of abuse. Most experts believe this is way higher, considering many seniors are dependent on people for their financial health, physical health, and over all well-being. Often seniors do not report for fear of retribution, embarrassment, they do not understand what is happening to them because of dementias or the biggest betrayal of all – it is a family member.

The York Regional police state that under the elder abuse umbrella, charges range from: variants of assault, failure to provide necessities of life, forcible confinement and psychological abuse, including intimidation, criminal harassment, uttering threats and harassing telephone calls. Financial abuse, including theft, theft by a person holding power of attorney, stopping mail with intent, extortion and fraud are also reportedly on the rise.

How easy it would be for someone to bilk their parent or relative out of their life savings or run up their credit card. It isn’t hard to imagine that family members could intimidate older parents or relatives into letting the live with them. Just last week I read about a troubled daughter, battling drug addiction, who was listed as power of attorney for her mother. It was discovered the daughter had been telling people her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, was dying, when actually she was withholding food, only giving her water and holding out for a large inheritance. Fortunately, people who cared spoke up and far-away family and authorities were notified.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse from anyone – even someone you trust like a family member, doctor, faith leader, social worker, speak up and GET HELP.

Here are some numbers to contact:

Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, offering community co-ordination activities, training opportunities for front line staff, public education sessions and other resources: 416-916-6728 or visit www.onpea.org

Seniors Safety Line Information, a referral and support line for seniors at risk of abuse available 24/7 with services in 154 languages: 1-866-299-1011.

Senior Info: visit: www.ontarioseniors.ca and www.seniors.gc.ca

Long-Term Care ACTION Line, for registering complaints about long-term care homes, home care services and/or Community Care Access Centres- 1-866-434-0144.

Victim Support Line: 1-888-579-2888.

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