Elder Abuse is Wrong: Neglect

"Neighbourhood Watch"

Laurie is sure something is wrong with her neighbour Ellie. She hasn't seen any lights on in the house for several days now. So here she is, with her husband, Frank, trying to force the window on Ellie's back porch. She's tried phoning, but there's been no answer.

She walks through the house, calling Ellie's name. Her eyes turn away from the dirty dishes, rotting food and dirty toilet. The house smells bad. How has it come to this? She knows the doctor has told Ellie's daughter several times that she needs to arrange care for Ellie, but it's clear his words were ignored. Her family refuses to see that Ellie's memory is failing. Laurie has helped out as she can and has even called Ellie's daughter herself. Now here is Ellie, passed out on the floor—cold, barely breathing, and motionless. Laurie's heart breaks as she calls for the ambulance. She thinks: no more excuses this time! She'll be speaking to the medical team at the hospital and reporting the lack of care. Ellie doesn't have to deal with this alone.

What does it look like?

Neglect is the failure to provide adequately for a dependent adult. These oversights or deliberate acts can involve:

  • Not giving you proper food or clean clothing
  • Not providing you with a safe, warm, clean place to live
  • Failing to provide adequate health care, medication and personal hygiene
  • Failing to provide aids for daily living, like hearing aids, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, grab bars
  • Failing to prevent physical harm
  • Failing to ensure you have proper supervision (if needed).

It may also include leaving older adults who are injured or unwell alone for too long or abandoning them.

Some forms of neglect are crimes in Canada, including failure to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death.

Why now?

As an older adult, you may be at risk of abuse (including neglect) because of where you live (alone, with family, or in an institution) or because you depend on other people for basic help with daily living or financial support.

You may receive help with intimate care—like feeding, dressing or bathing. You may depend on someone to give you your medication. These are situations where abuse can take place.

What can I do?

If you are being neglected—or suspect someone you know is not getting the care they need—you can:

  • Talk with someone you trust
  • Talk to other family members
  • Consult a public health nurse or social worker
  • Speak with your doctor
  • Call your local help line or seniors line
  • In an emergency, call 9-1-1.

If you are concerned about an older person's ability to live on their own, contact provincial or territorial government services. Someone there can direct you to the Public Trustee, the Public Guardian or a similar agency.

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