Elder abuse is commonly considered a hidden problem, as it can happen in many forms and is not always visible.
It often goes unreported for a variety of reasons: a fear of retaliation by an abuser, worry about the impact on their family or home life; or simply because the person does not realize that what they are experiencing may be abuse.
Judith Macrae, chair for Ridge Meadows Katzie Community Response Network, said there aren’t many local statistics to point to because the abuse is often unmentioned, or hard to pinpoint.
Financial abuse is a common issue, she noted, adding it can frequently come at the hands of family member or loved ones.
“It can be as simple as somebody just saying to their elderly parent, ‘Oh well, you’re low, why don’t we just sell your place and we’ll get a bigger place and you can live with us?’
“And so the elderly person sells their home and the money is given to the adult children, and things don’t turn out quite the way grandma expected them to,” Macrae said.
“The elderly person may end up isolated, she may be the one managing the children and kept busy, and apart from her friends while doing things for the family.”
Physical abuse can take many forms, too, and can often occur without intention.
“A person with dementia, for example, can be a challenging person to take care of,” Macrae said. “A caregiver, or family member might get frustrated and grab their arm. It may not be malicious, but it could still cause injury, and therefore it’s abuse.”
Emotional abuse can also be very subtle, Macrae said. She pointed out the role reversal that can happen between adult children, and their senior relatives, can erode the elder’s self-esteem over time.
What starts off as a joke about lack of competence, can lead down a path where confidence is lost.
Finally, self-abuse is also quite prevalent.
“Depression is common in the elderly, and they don’t realize they’re getting depressed and it can get deeper and deeper,” Macrae said.
“They live alone and they don’t have a lot of supports and then all of a sudden they’re not bathing, they’re not eating, and it can go unnoticed for a long time, and can get critical before anyone discovers it.”
It can be up to the community to mitigate many of these risk factors.
“That’s why we have Community Response Network,” Macrae noted.
The network, which was established in 2018, is a sub-committee of the senior’s network. There are more than 190 communities with a similar group across B.C., and their main role is to increase awareness of the issues that seniors can face.
Macrae said they try to teach people about the different types of abuse and self-neglect.
“If they see something they are not quite sure about, they can ask about it, and hopefully somebody who is experiencing these kinds of abuse will know there’s support out there if they reach out.”
A community contact list is available on the Ridge Meadows Katzie Community Response Network web page, which includes the following numbers.
Fraser Health Adult Abuse and Neglect Crisis Reporting Line
Fraser Health Crisis Line
MR PM Katzie Community Response Network
Seniors First BC (SAIL)
Community Based Victim Services
604-467-6911 ext 1227
Community Living BC
604-664-0101; or toll-free at 1-877-660-2522
Domestic Violence, Crisis, Housing, Counseling, Family Support
Victim Link BC
BCCEAS – SAIL (Seniors Abuse and Information Line) – for information
about abuse and for emotional support
604-437-1940, or toll-free at 1-866-437-1940