How Can Senior Abuse Be Prevented?
The abuse of older adults is everyone’s business. Seniors and community members need to be informed about abuse, be able to recognize the signs and be engaged in taking steps to prevent it. It’s important to remember that EVERYONE can help.
Neighbours, friends and family members play a key role in the identification of abusive situations involving seniors. These individuals often have a personal relationship with the senior, making them a potential resource to help seniors at risk and therefore reduce further escalation of abuse. A federal initiative has been developed to raise awareness and provide education about the growing problem of elder abuse in Canada. Contact PSANSC and request an education on the It’s Not Right” campaign. http://itsnotright.ca/
Knowledge is the key to prevention, and it is possible to prevent senior abuse. Specific prevention strategies may be required depending on the situation and type of abuse occurring. Small actions can make a big difference. Create a safe environment to talk to the senior about your concerns. Ensure the suspected “abuser” is NOT present. Provide support by listening and being nonjudgmental.
Preventative Actions Seniors Can Take to Protecting Finances and Property
- Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone
- Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive, i.e., pension cheques (OAS, CPP)
- Have bills automatically paid from your bank account such as your telephone or utilities bills
- Do not sign any documents you do not understand or are under pressure to sign from anyone
- Do not be guilt-tripped into doing something you are not in agreement with
- Update Will and Power of Attorney documents yearly or as relationships change
- Only grant an attorney (Power of Attorney for Property and/or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care) to a person(s) that you know, trust, and whom you know will respect your wishes
- Write into your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property instructions regarding when it is to come into effect
- Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
- Read all legal documents carefully, including the fine print
- Do not lend money without a formal payback schedule…unless it’s a gift
- Be careful when co-signing loans or signing over ownership of your home
- Ensure that property/materials which are borrowed are returned
- Keep your home secure and do not leave valuables or large amounts of cash lying around
- Be informed about financial affairs
Protect Your Wellbeing
- Think carefully before making changes to your living situation such as moving in with family or friends or having someone move into your home, especially if they promise to take care of you
- Plan for your future while you are still independent and mentally capable. Have a Power of Attorney or a Living Will to express how you want to address your finances and health care decisions to avoid confusion and family problems later
- Maintain contact with loved ones and connections with friends, family and support networks
- Stay active in the community – volunteer, go on outings with friends and visit neighbours. Isolation increases vulnerability to abuse.
- Seek alternative options for care, do not only rely only on family members for your care and social life
- Take control of your own decisions and health care
- Educate yourself about your rights and the signs to recognize elder abuse
- Have your own phone and open your own mail
- Ask for help when you need it
- Become educated about services for seniors, attend local health fairs to ask questions and pick up written materials
- Report abuse when you see it
If you are not satisfied with care services you receive in your home or care facility (improper treatment/yelling), voice the challenges you are encountering.
Advocating for Your Rights - Plan and Communicate
- Which person(s) do you want to make health care/financial decisions for you when you can’t?
- What kind of medical treatment do you want?
- How do you want people to treat you?
- What do you want them to know?
- Complete your Power of Attorney for Personal Care / Power of Attorney for Property and complete a will – review these documents yearly