Report of the National Seniors Council on Elder Abuse
Several overarching considerations emerged as a result of the regional meetings and need to be taken into account if elder abuse is to be effectively addressed:
- Raising awareness of elder abuse and what constitutes abuse will increase the demand for community-based and front-line services, which will in turn put pressure on limited human and financial resources.
- Elder abuse is a complex phenomenon. It occurs in different forms, in diverse settings and with different dynamics; it requires different types of interventions.
- An interdisciplinary approach is critical for making progress on elder abuse. Because this abuse is multi-faceted and occurs in many forms, the involvement of a broad range of disciplines is needed, including areas such as health, law, social work, academia, non-profit and voluntary sectors, institutional care sectors and governments.
- A cultural perspective is necessary to fully understand how elder abuse is perceived and dealt with in different cultural contexts, including among Aboriginal peoples. The National Seniors Council was not completely satisfied that there was sufficient representation at their regional meetings, from the three northern territories and from the various ethno-cultural communities, to give a full account of the situation that exists within these communities.
The regional meetings imparted a great deal of knowledge and information about elder abuse to all who participated. However, the National Seniors Council came to the conclusion that what was learned was only the “tip of the iceberg.”
There are no quick fixes or simple solutions in addressing the issue of elder abuse. The challenges in raising awareness, responding to elder abuse and ultimately mitigating and eliminating it are many, but the energy, commitment and expertise already exists among those who have taken on this task across the country.
Participants at the regional meetings are looking to the federal government to take a leadership role on the issue of elder abuse at a macro level, recognizing that delivery occurs at the provincial, territorial and community levels.
Advice to the Federal Government
The National Seniors Council advises the federal government to consider the following summary of areas for action, as suggested during the regional meetings:
- Take the lead in developing and implementing a coordinated national awareness campaign.
- Build on the awareness generated by World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
- Examine the feasibility of proposing that the United Nations formalize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on its calendar.
Knowledge transfer and information dissemination
- Support the development of a centralized mechanism for knowledge transfer and information exchange.
- Work in partnership with national organizations that have shown leadership in the dissemination of information.
- Launch and support an annual national symposium that would allow for knowledge transfer, information dissemination and education.
- Work in partnership with provinces and post-secondary institutions to encourage curriculum development specific to elder abuse and encourage the development of standards for professionals and personal support workers.
- Conduct research or enter into partnerships with organizations that conduct research. Some ideas for research include:
- updating existing research on causes, incidence and prevalence of elder abuse;
- examining the association between mental health issues, substance abuse and elder abuse;
- examining the consequences of elder abuse within families, communities and among different ethno-cultural populations;
- investigating the possible impact of ageism on elder abuse; and
- designing an evaluation framework for tools and interventions used to detect and respond to elder abuse.
Resources for community responses to elder abuse
- Provide support for volunteers to build capacity within the voluntary sector to respond to elder abuse.
- Examine the New Horizons for Seniors Program to determine the benefits of multi-year funding arrangements for program stakeholders and re-evaluate the application process to determine how to simplify it.
- Develop options for working with the public and private sectors (e.g., hospitals and banks) to ensure a better understanding of how to apply privacy legislation.
- Examine federal legislative and legal frameworks to better understand how they may be applied to cases of elder abuse.
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