Protecting our elders: It’s up to all of us to look out for them

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is June 15

Sharlene Harrison-Hinds

Special to The Standard

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is June 15. Today, more than ever, it is important and critical for all of us to look out for and stand up for our elders who cannot and more often than not, are reluctant to speak for themselves.

Abuse comes in many forms – physical, emotional, financial, psychological, sexual – and the most prevalent – neglect. During these pandemic times, the regulations about socializing have made the usual isolation of many seniors even worse. And when elders are not seen or heard from, the probability of neglect – by themselves or others who are close to them – is much more common.

What is the best way to help protect them? Connection – if not in person then by all the means we have available — including electronically – by phone or computer chats, Skype or by Zoom. Just knowing that someone is aware of their existence and cares enough to stay in touch means the world to them.

Even during the best of times, abuse happens every day to so many elders. And the abuse can even happen in a supposedly safe environment such as a retirement or nursing home – two of the places where safety and well-being are expected but not always provided.

Neglect – by oneself or by another person – is the most prevalent abuse of all. Neglect is subtle and yet obvious at the same time. This includes unseen issues such as dehydration or malnutrition, untreated bed sores, unattended or untreated health problems, unsafe or unsanitary living conditions and poor personal hygiene.

Self-neglect is related to but distinct from elder neglect. Self-neglect is a form of self-harm that may occur with, provoke, or be triggered by elder mistreatment. It is defined as the behaviour of an older person that threatens their own health or safety, including but not limited to the refusal or failure to provide themselves with life necessities such as shelter, food, water and health care.

Abandonment is often considered a subtype of neglect and other times considered a separate category of abuse. It is the desertion of an older adult by an individual who has physical custody of an elder, or who has assumed responsibility for providing care.

We must all work together to protect our senior citizens. Let’s start at the beginning of finding any solution to a problem – by being aware of the signs, by providing connection and contact and by knowing where to turn for help.

A good place to start is SAIL – Seniors Abuse & Information Line. Our Province wide confidential Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL) is a safe place for older adults, and those who care about them to talk to a specially trained intake worker about abuse or mistreatment, receive information and support about issues that impact the health and well being of an older adult. They provide information, support and referrals to people age 50+ who are victims of abuse, including family and sexual violence. Legal advice, advocacy and representation are available to people age 50+ who are unable to access legal help due to low income or other barriers including housing, abuse, neglect, government benefits and guardianship.

All calls are confidential.

Call: 604-437-1940 or Toll Free: 1-866-437-1940, weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., excluding statutory holidays.

Language interpretation is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

TTY Teletype for the deaf who have access to TTY equipment: 604-428-3359 or toll free 1-855-306-1443.

SAIL is an excellent place to seek help. But the first step is being aware and caring. And that’s what WEAAD is all about. Together, with BC CRN ( The British Columbia Association of Community Response Networks ) and SAIL, we can all make a difference in the lives of elders and other vulnerable adults.

For more information about elder abuse, or find out about volunteering, contact CRN- Hope, Kim Paolini at 604-869-2466 or Sharlene Harrison-Hinds at 604-869-4634.