Thanks to a handful of local agencies that assist senior citizens in the community, St. Albert now has a protocol that lays out where seniors can go and what can be done if they’ve been a victim of elder abuse.
“If you walk in our door and you’re a senior, you will get a safety plan, you will get a risk assessment and you will walk out with all the help you need,” said Doreen Slessor, executive director of Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF).
SAIF is one of 14 local organizations under the banner of the St. Albert Seniors Working Group, which drafted the protocol Elder Abuse Guidelines for Action last year.
The protocol includes detailed information on how to identify the many forms of elder abuse, such as physical, financial and medication. While it is primarily intended for professionals in the community who respond to concerns involving senior citizens, the working group is also trying to educate members of the public about elder abuse.
Earlier this week, volunteers gave a presentation on elder abuse to members of Seniors United Now (SUN) in St. Albert.
“While we had professionals trained on how to respond, we really felt that we needed to get out there to community members because I think sometimes we’re worried about something but we don’t know what to do about it,” said Leanne MacMillan, community development co-ordinator at Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).
Also included in the protocol is a list of safe places where a senior can be taken if they need to leave their home.
Bur Slessor said elder abuse victims seldom do.
“It’s very rare that they leave because they don’t want to leave their house, they don’t want to leave their caregiver,” she said.
In such cases, the protocol helps agencies find a way to keep the senior safe within their home.
Five years ago, when a group of concerned citizens first tried to raise awareness of elder abuse in St. Albert, Slessor said that not everyone was on board.
“Some people even told me, “Oh quit putting ideas in people’s head, it doesn’t happen,” she recalled.
“We got absolutely nowhere.”
According to Tara Rodrique, an outreach worker with the St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club, there is a lot of reluctance in the community to accept that elder abuse happens in St. Albert.
“I think people just don’t want to admit that these horrific things happen in their own community. I don’t know if that’s just in St. Albert or if that’s just everywhere,” she said.
Quite often abusers are family members or caregivers, a fact that also contributes to why so many seniors refuse to leave their homes.
“You will put up with what’s happening in your home because you want to stay in your home. Or because these are your children, these are your grandchildren, these are people that you trust and love who are doing this to you,” said Slessor.
If victims do want to remain in their homes, the protocol tells agencies how best to help them.
“There are things to suggest to them that can help it stop. If it’s financial [abuse] – direct deposit or cancelling bank cards that children might have,” Slessor said.
Other times, senior citizens might just need to be made aware of certain things such as making sure they have a personal directive that stipulates what should be done if they become mentally incapable of deciding on personal matters.
“They’re adults and often they choose not to do something about it,” said Rodrique.
“But they need to be aware that they do have choices if they do decide at some point to make those changes.”