Elder Abuse Resource Consultant
Elder abuse is a very complex issue. It is not always physical abuse. It can be financial, neglect, emotional or sexual abuse, and many times it is a combination of two or more. Elder abuse is defined as the mistreatment of an older adult by a person they should be able to trust or rely on. It could be a friend if that friend is someone they rely on for assistance with day to day activities. It could be a power of attorney taking money. It could also be a family member or a paid caregiver.
I work with two detectives from the Waterloo Regional Police Services. I assist clients with home care services, community services referrals and advocacy; the police deal with issues of a criminal matter. The Elder Abuse Response Team provides education and presentations to the public and professionals at various venues.
Twice a year we do presentations at the citizens’ police academy where we teach about elder abuse issues. We work closely with the Harmony Interactive Theatre Troupe, which makes our presentations more significant for the audience. I have run education sessions where someone comes to me afterwards and discloses an abusive situation. Without that information, they may have never disclosed.
I am a Registered Nurse. My sister and my aunt were both nurses. They inspired me to go into the profession. I stepped away when my children were young to work for my family’s business for 15 years, but returned after my sister died when she was 38 years old. I was just so moved by the care she got at home.
I have worked in Elder Abuse for almost 5 years and for the WWLHIN for more than 11 years. I was drawn into this work because I have a love for older adults. I find they have so much to offer.
These can be incredibly complex relationships. There are cases where the abuser is the senior’s only caregiver. Parents may not want to report their children. There is no mandatory reporting for elder abuse, as we want to respect the rights and wishes of the older adult. If the older adult is capable but not willing to come forward, that is their right. Long term care homes are the only exception; they must report suspected abuse to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and to the police.
In a case where the older adult is in imminent danger, the officer will make an arrest. Removing the alleged abuser from the home is not always the best-case scenario. This person may be the only person the older adult has to rely upon. We never want to leave the older adult isolated or prematurely move them out of their home.
We strive to assist both the older adult and alleged abuser by offering them the opportunity to take a restorative justice approach to work with a mediator to heal the relationship. Restorative justice is a way for people to heal in a way that is safe and respectful for everyone. The goal is to reduce the harm and make the situation better for the older adult and for their families.
I am grateful to work with a wonderful team of people. The social workers connected with the WWLHIN do so much to help families heal, the Community and Hospital Care Coordinators are a significant part of our team as well. The police officers are wonderful colleagues. We support each other through the most difficult cases.
We do not work alone on cases of elder abuse. We work with multiple community agencies. It really does take a community approach to give our clients the care and support they need.
We are the only team in Ontario with a nurse from the LHIN working directly with the police in one office. I feel we are very fortunate to have this type of team in place to help our older adults.