Abuse and Neglect
Abuse and neglect of older or vulnerable persons is not a new problem. Although present for many years in our society, it has existed in relative silence, denial and isolation. It is not usually talked about and difficult to solve unless people recognize the abuse and let someone know it is happening. Many acts of abuse are crimes. Victims of abuse have the right to the law’s protection and to services that support their independence and well-being.
Abuse can happen to any person, but certain factors can make people more vulnerable. These include mental or physical impairment and / or cultural or language barriers. Abused, older or vulnerable persons are often socially isolated with few friends or family in whom to confide.
Anyone can be an abuser. Abusers can be any family member and are often people who depend on the older person for shelter or financial support. Abusers can also be neighbours, hired caregivers, friends or strangers canvassing or selling products door-to-door.
Abuse can occur in institutions, like long term care facilities or retirement homes. The abusers here could be frustrated staff members who are not able to do their jobs properly (lack of training, inadequate staffing levels). Other residents or visitors may also be abusers.
Abuse or neglect is seldom reported for a variety of reasons.
- Some victims don’t know what their rights are or what can be done.
- Some think the police or other agencies can’t help them.
- Some don’t speak English.
- Some are afraid of what the abuser will do if they report the abuse.
- Some fear being placed in an institution.
- Some feel ashamed because their family or caregiver is mistreating them.
- Some feel embarrassed at having been taken advantage of or scammed.
Abuse and neglect of older or vulnerable persons is any action or inaction by any person that causes harm to the older or vulnerable person.