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Grant helps streamline elder abuse reports

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 06:00 am

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The part-time elder abuse protocol coordinator position will be posted until March 31. Contact Doreen Slessor at the SAIF Society ( for more information.

A new grant from the province will help smooth out the process of reporting and resolving situations of elder abuse, say local agencies.

The Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) Society in St. Albert has received a $44,000 grant for an elder abuse protocol coordinator through the Victims of Crime Fund by Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General.

The coordinator, who will be based out of SAIF, will start in April. He or she will be in charge of community education and act as the primary reporting person for cases of elder abuse.

“We got to a point where we couldn’t do it from the edge of our desks anymore – we needed to hire an elder abuse coordinator,” said Doreen Slessor, executive director of SAIF.

An elder abuse protocol was developed in 2009, she said. People were aware of elder abuse but there was no coordination between community groups - such as the RCMP, 50+ Club and the Primary Care Network – to deal with it.

Part of the elder abuse coordinator’s role will be to act as a liaison between the community and the St. Albert Elder Abuse Protocol Committee, a group made of several agencies involved in supporting seniors.

Slessor said the coordinator will help streamline the process of elder abuse reporting, which was previously collected and assessed by the committee.

During the fall of 2010, the committee received 40 reports of elder abuse within six months of training frontline staff about abuse reporting.

The numbers have been climbing since and a coordinator will be able to keep up-to-date statistics on the number and types of abuse reports, she said.

A single liaison will also help keep a watchful eye on seniors, as isolation from the community is an indicator and tool of abuse, added Leanne MacMillan, committee member and community development coordinator with the city.

Eyes on the ground

The elder abuse protocol coordinator is just one part of an elder abuse project that has been six years in the making, noted Slessor.

As part of the elder abuse protocol, more than 100 community responders have been trained to recognize and report abuse. Responders are divided into three levels; the third is the most advanced and trained to help victims of abuse.

The first level of responders – also known as “lamplighters” – are people that come across seniors on a daily basis, such as banks or grocery store clerks.

They are trained to recognize if something just isn’t right, said Slessor.

“How come every time Mr. Jones comes to the bank his adult daughter is with him and she won’t let anyone else talk to him? Or, how come Mr. Jones is coming to church and his clothes are dirty and his hair is not clean?”

Anyone who is interested can get level one training, she added.

“We would love to do it with more congregations, more churches … because we know how important congregations are to seniors or their faith is.”

Second level responders – such as volunteers and staff at the St. Albert Food Bank – are trained to recognize and respond. The third level – homecare workers, social workers, nurses – recognize, respond and take on the case.

Elder abuse is very complex, often involving more than one type of abuse and multiple community agencies, said MacMillan.

Abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, spiritual or involve medication/prescriptions or neglect.

“We know that physical is not as common as emotional and financial,” she said. “They are insidious, longer term (and) gradual. They make the senior question whether it’s happening or not.”


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