Elder Abuse is Wrong: "Mrs. Chow Breathes a Sigh of Relief"

Mrs. Chow doesn't want to deal with Alison's embarrassing questions. Usually, the young volunteer reads to Mrs. Chow in her apartment or helps her to walk to the shops nearby. But this morning, Alison wants to talk about the last time Mrs. Chow's granddaughter stopped by to visit. Alison noticed the teenager taking a $20 bill from her grandmother's purse. "Oh, she always gives me money," Tricia had answered, when confronted. "It's no big deal."

"I don't want anyone to get into trouble", explains Mrs. Chow as she tries to walk away. She wants to stick by her family, even though she feels hurt. Her family would be angry if Tricia's problems were made public. "But it's not fair to you!" says Alison, following her. "Now I know why you are short of cash so often at the store."

Alison stops and looks at Mrs. Chow carefully. "Would it help you to know that you don't have to do this alone? I'd be happy to come by sometime when the girl's mother is here. Maybe there's a way to solve this without everyone feeling too badly."

Mrs. Chow is surprised at the relief she feels to hear this. It all feels so complicated. But maybe this girl understands why this is so hard for her. Maybe she does have some choices after all.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is an action, deliberate behaviour or failure to act, by a person in a position of trust—like an adult child, family member, friend or caregiver—that causes or risks causing an older adult:

  • Physical, sexual or emotional harm; or
  • Damage to—or loss of—property or assets.

Elder abuse covers a whole range of behaviours, from hurtful comments to dominating or controlling another person's daily activities. At its most extreme, elder abuse can result in serious physical harm or endanger a person's life.

Abuse may be a pattern of behaviour or just a single incident. It might involve physical harm, social isolation or neglect. Sometimes, the absence of care can hurt just as much as physical abuse.

Some kinds of abuse are criminal offences. Other kinds of abuse, like repeated small insults, may not be crimes, but they can hurt anyway. They can also lead to criminal forms of abuse later on.

Ageism

Stereotypes about old age and aging can be a factor in elder abuse. Some people assume that an older person's mental and physical abilities are limited without regard to the individual's real abilities. They may talk down to an older person or make decisions that affect them without their input. This is known as ageism.

The federal and provincial and territorial governments have adopted legislation (human rights acts or codes) prohibiting discrimination on various grounds, including age, in relation to employment, the provision of goods, services and facilities, and accommodation.

Everyone deserves protection from abuse. It can create real emotional, physical or financial harm—whether it's hurt feelings, broken limbs or serious financial loss. It can make you feel unsafe where you live and afraid of what might happen next.

Being on the receiving end of abuse can make you feel badly about yourself and cause you to lose your confidence and self-esteem. This can make it difficult to make good decisions and to function at work or in your daily activities.

Sometimes it takes a while for a person to realize they are being abused. They don't think it could happen to them. If it does, you're not alone—someone will listen.

Controlling Behaviour

An abuser may be moody or angry. These moods and aggressive behaviours can increase over time. They may be using anger to control you.

Some people think they are to blame for the other person's angry behaviour—they don't see that they are being abused.

If a partner, family member or friend abuses you, it is not your fault.

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