GUEST COLUMN: Elders deserve our respect, not abuse

Michael Eshkibok

Some people aren’t sure what constitutes elder abuse.

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, that occurs in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, and which causes harm or distress to an older person.

Elder abuse can come in different forms and can be emotional, sexual, physical, psychological, or financial, and be intentional or unintentional neglect. Sometimes people or caretakers may not even know they are being abusive.

I am bothered by elder abuse. It can lead to low self-esteem and depression in people in what should be their golden years. For some, their final years can be hell.

Sometimes elderly people may be so embarrassed or ashamed about the abuse and will avoid talking about it, because it brings a lot of pain. Many elderly people are can be abused in their own homes and in facilities responsible for their care.

As older people become frail with age they are less likely to stand up to or recognize bullying, or fight back if attacked. They may not think, see, or hear as they once did, and this can create a chance for someone to take advantage of them. Many elderly around the world are being abused and it doesn’t have to be like that.

It’s all about respect.

In North American Indigenous culture, it is an honour to be old.

The Sarnia-Lambton Elder Abuse Awareness Network (SLEAAN) recognized World Elder Abuse on June 15 with a ceremonial tree planting at Aamjiwnaang (Sarnia) First Nation. It’s an organization I admire.

The tree was planted as a reminder, to me, that this is a spiritual event, and that we are all here because the Creator put us here to get along and work together, and that we all only have so much time on Earth. About 100 people and their supporters attended the event.

The following was reported by SLEAAN member agencies in 2014:

* Lambton Elderly Outreach provided service to 33 seniors in response to seven physical, 19 financial, and seven psychological abuse instances;

* Sarnia Police Services responded to 15 calls regarding physical and financial elder abuse;

* Lambton OPP provided 10 public education presentations on the subject of elder abuse prevention and fraud protection.

The Sarnia Lambton Elder Abuse Awareness Network is an organization of people and professionals from community agencies. Network members have been working together since 2002 with a vision to create a community that is free from abuse for the elderly through systems advocacy, service co-ordination, training, and education.

People can call the Sarnia Police Service at 519-344-8861 or the OPP who are members if they have any questions or go to the website: www.sleaan.com.

Michael Eshkibok is a freelance journalist and holds a Doctorate in Communications.