World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

 June 14, 2019
Posted by smiklosovic

June is Recreation and Parks Month (JRPM) recognizes the importance of recreation and parks to the wellbeing of our communities. There are a number of special days in June, which provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate the many benefits of recreation and parks, including World Environment Day (June 5) and World Multiculturalism Day (June 27). In celebration of JRPM, the NWTRPA is excited to share this feature post by Suzette Montreuil, Executive Director of the NWT Seniors’ Society in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15).

June is such a busy month. It’s both Recreation and Parks Month and Senior Citizens’ Month. It started off with Intergenerational Day on June 1st. There is one day that maybe you don’t know about and might find hard to talk about. June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Countries all over the world recognize that elder abuse happens just about everywhere.

The North has a strong history of respecting elders. However, things go astray and some isolated and vulnerable elders are at risk of suffering from some type of abuse. Here is one definition of abuse: “Abuse is whenever someone limits or controls the rights and freedoms of an older adult.”

There are many types of abuse. Financial abuse is when someone pressures an elder into giving them money, like on pension day. Maybe an elder is forced to hand over property or possessions as well. Psychological abuse is if someone insults, threatens, intimidates, or humiliates an older adult. It is also treating a senior like a child or not allowing them to see their family or friends. Sexual abuse is anything related to an older adult being forced to engage in sexual activity. This includes verbal or suggestive behaviour, and not respecting the elder’s privacy. It is spiritual abuse when someone limits or restricts the spiritual practices, customs, or traditions of an elder. Making fun of someone’s beliefs would fall in this category. The final type is physical abuse. This is if someone hits an older adult, handles them roughly, or threatens to do so, even if there is no injury. A similar issue is neglect if an elder is dependent on someone for some help, but the needs of the elder are ignored to punish them. It is not neglect if the caregiver does not know what is needed. In this case, training and support would be the answer. The most common type of elder abuse in the NWT is financial abuse. 

Warning signs of abuse are many. Maybe your aunt seems depressed and withdrawn or fearful. Your grandmother went to many community events before, but now she has stopped coming. Your uncle is not the same after someone moves in with them. You go to visit and see no food in the house.  Things start disappearing from the house or maybe the phone is cut off.  Your granny has an injury, but she can’t explain how it happened. The main point is that if an older adult tells you they are suffering abuse, believe them and check it out!

There are many risk factors for abuse, but the main one is isolation. The elder feels they are facing their situation alone and don’t know who they can trust. It is ok to approach an elder when the abuser is not around. Check and see if they are in danger. If they are, call the RCMP. If not, ask if they want to talk about their situation. If not, try and keep the door open for another time.

Worried about this for your community? The NWT Seniors’ Society offers two-day workshops on preventing abuse of seniors. We take a look at what elder abuse looks like in your community and review information on the issue. Then we help each community develop a local strategy for dealing with elder abuse. Give us a call at 1-800-661-0878 or email me at [email protected] if you might be interested. 

Suzette Montreuil
Executive Director
NWT Seniors’ Society

To learn more about how June is Recreation and Parks Month can provide opportunities to connect with older generations in respectful, meaningful ways, check out our JRPM and Intergenerational Day news post.