Sharlene Harrison-Hinds, a British Columbia Community Response Network volunteer, hosts an information table on senior abuse every year. Submitted

Elder abuse and neglect: If you see something, say or do something

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

“I would see my neighbour come into the bank with her pension cheque every month,” recalled Annie Moose*. “She was always accompanied by a young man who seemed edgy while my neighbour seemed nervous. I would watch as he would take the money from her hands, leaving her forlorn and looking quite lost and helpless. I suspected that this was not right but felt helpless and didn’t know where to turn.”

Does this sound familiar at all? What would you do in this situation?

Statistics reported by the Public Guardian Office show that across B.C., investigations into alleged cases of abuse, neglect and self-neglect have surged by 12 per cent since 2008. Perhaps even more startling, the Fraser Region is the leader in this area with a 26-per cent jump.

“Everyone should know that the local health authority is required under the Adult Guardianship Act to investigate every report of adult abuse or self-neglect,” said Krista James, national director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law.

This is where the British Columbia Community Response Network (BC CRN) comes in. Although not a recognized household name, the group is a powerhouse of information and guidance for seniors to not just deal with abuse (or neglect) but to help them protect themselves from harm. Tasked with educating the public about the signs of abuse and neglect, BC CRN also shared information about accessing help, and provides resources to recognize, report, refer and protect vulnerable seniors.

In June 2006, the United Nations declared June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), because for many seniors, the golden years are non-existent due to abuse and neglect by caregivers, including family, those hired to look after them, friends and neighbours.

Abuse is the great equalizer as it knows no boundaries of age, gender, economics or ethnicity.

And although what often comes to mind first is physical abuse, that is just the most obvious – other forms of abuse are usually well hidden: financial, psychological, emotional and even sexual. Combine that with the feelings of shame and embarrassment that abuse often leaves people feeling, and these are powerful forces that may inhibit seniors from asking for help or even admitting that they are being victimized.

Part of the issue is the isolation of many seniors whose families have moved or who have lost their social contacts and context. So where does one turn for help? What resources are available for seniors to get legal, medical or other assistance?

Enter the BC CRN, who assists seniors with accessing the information and resources starts, but it all begins with a phone call, email, or meeting with a volunteer who will help guide seniors through the process of finding organizations or services to help them emerge from their particular situation.

On Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., local volunteers from BC CRN will be at Hope’s Buy-Low and Save-On to answer questions, give out helpful information and some useful items to help us remember that help is available.

If you know a senior or vulnerable adult you know is being abused or neglected, please stop by the display table and chat with the volunteers or pick up information about available resources.

For more information about BC CRN visit the website: www.bccrns.ca.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

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