Sharlene Harrison-Hinds hosting a booth about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day last year at Buy-Low Foods. (Submitted photo)

Sharlene Harrison-Hinds hosting a booth about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day last year at Buy-Low Foods. (Submitted photo)

Seniors living in dignity and safety

BC CRN is hosting an info session on June 15.

By Sharlene Harrison-Hinds

Keeping our elders safe.

Just as children need our protection and vigilance in making sure they are safe, so does another vulnerable and more invisible population – our elders. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, as declared by the United Nations in 2012. The first step to an effective solution of this universal problem is to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, which takes awareness and knowledge.

Who would abuse, neglect or take advantage of a senior citizen? You might be surprised to learn that quite often it is family, caregivers or others acquainted with the elder. Statistics reported by the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia show that across B.C., investigations into alleged cases of abuse, neglect and self-neglect have surged by 12 per cent since 2008. The Fraser Region leads all health regions with a 26-per-cent jump. According to Krista James, national director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, “Everyone should know that the local health authority is required under the Adult Guardianship Act to investigate every report of adult abuse or self-neglect.” That’s where the BC Community Response Network (BC CRN) comes into play, by providing people with resources to recognize, report, refer and protect vulnerable seniors. The BC CRN is tasked with not just education of the signs of abuse and neglect, but also sharing information about accessing help.

Abuse and neglect of seniors take many forms – financial, emotional and physical. Neglect can be unintentional or circumstantial – especially for elders who are isolated due to family members living too far away to monitor their well-being or the seniors having no children or surviving family members to check up on them. The same cannot be said about abuse however which is often hidden by the victims themselves due to embarrassment or shame. Abuse is historically a topic that is kept private and therein lies part of the problem.

As part of the mandate of the BC CRN, the Hope chapter will have information tables set up at the Hope Buy-Low Foods and Save-On-Foods stores on June 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will be there to provide resource material, and useful free reminder items such as flashlights and pens for people interested in stopping by to chat, get information and find out how to help seniors who they suspect are victims of abuse or neglect.

Being a guardian of our elders is not just a responsibility of the family; it is the duty of all members of our community to keep our elders safe and provide a healthy environment where they can live in dignity. For more information on how you can become actively involved in the BC CRN, please visit the website: www.bccrns.ca.