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Protect Our Seniors

In many cultures, to be a senior or elder is to be respected and revered for their wisdom. In our fast-paced North American society however, older people are not always valued and may be marginalized or suffer abuse.

Last month, Isabelle Mymko organized a presentation at the Sandy Lake Seniors Drop-In Centre entitled Senior Safety: Protecting Your Rights and Preventing Abuse. The speakers were Constable Theresa Daranciang of the Wasagaming RCMP, and Shannon Kohler, elder abuse consultant with the Government of Manitoba’s Seniors and Healthy Aging Secretariat.

“Abuse hurts at any age and it is a crime,” said Constable Daranciang. Types of senior abuse can include physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, financial and neglectful treatment, with financial abuse being the most common in Manitoba. Although an abuser can be anyone in a position of trust, it is most commonly an adult child who feels a false sense of entitlement, that they are “owed” money, property or possessions. Government statistics estimate that between four per cent and 10 per cent of older adults (50+) experience one or more forms of abuse or neglect in their later years, but only one in five cases comes to the attention of those who can help.

Abuse often goes unreported because the person may not know that something can be done, or who to talk to for help. There can be shame and embarrassment if the abuser is a spouse or family member, or the abused person may be fearful of retaliation or punishment.

By 2021 it is estimated that between 16,000 and 40,000 Manitobans will experience some sort of abuse – a staggering statistic!

“We have a shared responsibility to promote respect for all members of our community. Everyone has a role to play,” said Kohler. If you see possible signs of abuse such as cuts, bruises or broken bones, depression and withdrawal, sudden change in standard of living or social habits or the disappearance of possessions,

you have the responsibility to try and help. Turning a blind eye would be wrong.

If you are a senior it is important that you understand your rights as an older person. Protect yourself by staying sociable and active in the community. Keep in contact with friends outside the home and plan for at least weekly contact. Be skeptical of telephone and email scams – if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

You should also have updated documentation in place such as a health directive, in case you are unable to speak for yourself, a power of attorney, giving control to someone who will represent your best interests and of course, a will that makes your wishes clear.

If you need help, or think someone else might, there are resources available. Seniors Abuse Support Line, 1-888-896- 7183, will provide confidential information and referrals or if there is an immediate safety concern call 911. The local RCMP will also check on a person’s well-being. If the senior is in a care home or hospital, call the Protection for Persons in Care office at 1-204-788-6366. The Public Trustee of Manitoba can also be called at 1-204-945-2700.

An information package can be obtained by contacting Shannon Kohler, 1-204-945-8036, or [email protected] or from Seniors and Healthy Aging Secretariat, 1610-155 Carlton St., Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3H8 or check their website www.sen iorsabusesupport.ca.

World Elder Abuse Day is June 15. Be informed and make sure it doesn’t happen in your community.

– Candy Irwin writes from Lake Audy, Manitoba

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