First off, we need to make something very clear. Elder abuse is not a crime in the sense that a police officer can charge someone with “elder abuse”. It is the name given to a series of behaviours that are detrimental to an elderly person’s life, safety, security, lifestyle, way of life and so on. When a charge is laid in an elder abuse case, it is a charge of physical assault, neglect, domestic assault, sexual assault or in some cases, financial abuse. This can make things challenging because there are many cases that are not cut and dried so to speak.
The onus for pressing charges in an elder abuse case typically falls to the victim. There are many things that are good with that in the sense that a person who is victimized should be able to have some element of control over their life when moving forward. The difficulty with that is that most times, the victim has to decide between laying charges against their spouse or sibling or child and/ or someone they are dependent on. Family violence dynamics makes this an incredibly difficult decision to make. When that is coupled with dependency issues that are real and relative to everyday living, sometimes, there really isn’t a ‘choice’. Do you tell on your son or daughter who is taking your money, keeping you locked up in your room, yelling and screaming at you for what a burden you are? (and then become homeless with no financial options or ability to secure safe and appropriate housing?) Or do you say nothing and hope that things will get better some day.
I’m a fairly assertive soul but really – charge my kids and lose my house or say nothing, I’m not 100% sure what I would do.
In most of the cases we see, elements of elder abuse exist, but they’re not enough to lay charges. Sometimes the issue is the fact that the victim will hesitate, get confused, get overwhelmed or simply not want to tell every single piece of the story because of how embarrassing it is.
So now you have a senior that is need of assistance or possibly protection but there is nothing they can access through the courts because of one of the millions of reasons why there were no charges. Now it’s up to the community to come up with a plan and while there are tons of fantastic different organizations out there dedicated to helping seniors, they are often in isolation of one another making it difficult to figure out how to get from point A to point B or maybe you should be skipping B althogether and going straight for C? Confused yet?
Following are the different forms of abuse a senior may experience;
Physical Abuse – Any act of violence casuing injury or physical discomfort. Physical abuse includes; slapping, pinching, punching, rough handling, forcible confinement or restraint, intentional over or under medication.
Sexual Abuse – Any sexual activity that occurs when one or both parties cannot or do not give consent. May include phsyical contact, exposing onself, inappropriate or sexual comments.
Psychological Abuse – Any action or comment causing emotional anguish, fear or diminished self-esteem or dignity. Psychological abuse may include; threats to do harm, unwanted institutionaliztion, harassment, abandonment, imposed isolation, removal of decision making choices.
Financial Abuse – Theft or exploitation of a person’s money, property or assets. Financial abuse may include; fraud, forgery, misuse of Power of Attorney.
Institutional Abuse – Any physical, sexual, psychological, financial abuse or neglect occurring within a facility involving active victimization, withholding or denial of individual care needs, and / or failure to carry out reasonable requests.
Neglect – Can be intentional or unintentional and happens when a person who has care and / or custody of a senior and fails to meet their needs.
My mother-in-law was the victim of physical assault by a care worker (who was fired and then immediately re-hired by another care facility for seniors since no charges were laid therefore no record or conviction) and institutional abuse in the form of intentional over-medication which we discovered after she started have seizures for no reason while in their care. One of the scariest parts of that is how often it happens to people and how so many people were not surprised when we told them.
For more information, please visit; http://www.onpea.org/index.html