A new committee being formed for residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is dedicated to the prevention of elder abuse.
The latter can take many different forms, including physical psychological, financial, spiritual or sexual abuse.
The B.C. Association of Community Response Networks brings concerned community members together to create a coordinated response to adult abuse, neglect and self-neglect. The network supports elderly adults who might be in an abusive situation by advising them and pointing them in the right direction to get help.
The network also works towards the prevention of elderly abuse over time.
Karen Bunner is the Fraser Valley east regional mentor for the Community Response Network, which works with committees in Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope,
The new Community Response Network group is a sub-committee of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows- Katzie Seniors Network.
“We are not front-line responders,” said Bunner, who has a graduate degree in nursing and worked for Fraser Health for a number of years before retiring and taking on this role.
“Basically, what the response network is, is it just brings people together because we want to raise awareness. And we do that through various means about the subject matter and we educate through workshops and conferences. Just building relationships in the community,” she said.
So far the new committee has held a couple of meetings and Bunner says there is definitely interest in the community. Bunner is hoping that more professional and non-profit organizations will get involved.
“We really work towards prevention.”
“Each network in each community they know what’s happening in their community in relation to this,” explained Bunner.
”Say they are with victim’s services, they might see an increase in the number of elderly that are being abused. So they can bring that to the table and say, ‘OK, this is happening in our community, how can we collaborate and work together? What options do we have to see if we can make a difference,’” asked Bunner.
Bunner believes that a lot of elder abuse goes unreported.
She advises that if someone tells you they are being abused then believe them.
“A lot of people they may be abused and think, oh well, this is just nothing, it happened once. But believe what they are saying. Provide the resources,” she said, adding tell them if you want to talk about it further than these are the resources that you can connect with.
And, Bunner says, the resources are there to help.
She held a workshop in Pitt Meadows about elder abuse and about a week later received a call from a gentleman who told her he suspected financial abuse was happening to his wife’s mother by another family member, but they couldn’t get any help.
Bunner advised them to get in contact with a caseworker with Vancouver Coastal Health that they were already involved with and also Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, whose mandate is to protect the legal, financial, personal and health care interests of adults who require assistance in decision making, including assessments and investigations.
“A couple of weeks later, got an email from the Public Guardian that there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation,” said Bunner.
At another talk, n 85-year-old lady stood up. She had been married for 50 years, but her husband had since passed.
“She got up and said, ‘I was in an abusive relationship and this is the first time that I have said it out loud,’” Bunner said.
“That is so impactful. I think what we are doing is working. I just want us to continue doing that. Getting the word out, providing the resources and support that those that contact us that are in difficult situations,” she continued.
Bunner’s hope for the committee is to eradicate the stigma of elder abuse and get people talking about the subject.
• If you are worried a family member or friend are victims of abuse or if you are a victim you can contact Fraser Health at 1-877-732-2808. If the person involved has disabilities you can call Community Living B.C. at 1-877-660-2522.
Or you can email the Community Response Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone or organization wishing to join the network can email the above address or email@example.com.
For more information on the Community Response Network go to bccrns.ca.