It’s an ugly topic. We hate to think of seniors in our community being affected by elder abuse. We want to believe the best in everyone. But it’s not unwise to be prepared. Recognize the signs and know what to do if you suspect elder abuse.
Elder abuse affects between 4% and 10% of seniors in Canada, but only 20% of those cases are addressed. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s are at a higher risk of all forms of abuse compared to those with sound cognition. Seniors living alone or recently widowed are much more likely to be financially abused, whereas those living with their caregivers are more often physically or emotionally abused. Abuse can quickly lead to a downward spiral of other health risks such as depression and isolation.
The most common form of elder abuse is Financial Abuse. The elder will be pressured into giving money to a friend or younger relative, and will be bullied if they ask for the money to be repaid. Because the abuser is often a loved one, the elder may feel guilty for asking for the money back or saying no to the person. It could be as small as a few dollars every week, or as serious as signing over a Power of Attorney and losing their home. Complicated by the close relationship between the abuser and the abused, the elder feels hopeless to find a solution.
As a caregiver, learn the signs of financial abuse.
The key is awareness. If you suspect one of your clients is experiencing elder abuse, ensure them that speaking to you is safe and that you want to help. Ask if they have signed any documents they didn’t understand or were forced to sign. Ask if money has been taken or borrowed and not returned. Ask if there have been any changes to the home made without their permission, such as someone moving in, or possessions being taken or sold. There are excellent resources such as CASE and BASE screening tools to help you determine whether or not someone may be abused. If it is clear that the elder is being taken advantage of, you can encourage them to speak to the police or a lawyer to get help.
Here are some tips and tricks to to help avoid financial abuse before it starts.
Don’t forget: you can always refer your patient to an Elder Abuse Consultation clinic through your Caredove network.