Elder Abuse, What’s New?

Originally published at allaboutestates.ca on February 1, 2013
Elder abuse, a growing concern and one that unfortunately will likely increase as more of us reach our golden years. Issues relating to elder abuse are not clearly understood as to what constitutes abuse and what can be done about it. Recently seniors have been given a voice by such programs as the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative and the New Horizons for Seniors Program. These projects are designed to increase public awareness and do an excellent job.

On January 13, 2013 the Protecting Canada’s Seniors Act was enacted. The Criminal Code (Legislative Summary of Bill C-36, 2012) has been amended to include: “evidence that the offense had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation” . This evidence will be taken into account during sentencing. While there is no consistent definition of elder abuse, financial abuse occurs most often.

I am not sure this will serve as a deterrent however it does recognize that elder abuse is a crime and we should see stiffer sentences for those individuals found guilty. One major factor having a causal relationship to elder abuse is caregiver burnout. Spouses and adult children ( yes, I am still looking for a better word to describe offspring over the age of majority) are increasingly finding themselves in a caregiving role. Caregiving, as many of you know firsthand, while it has many benefits, can be emotionally, physically and financially draining.

Continued funding for community based programs offering respite and other supports for carers is needed. I look forward to reading how these new cases will be tried in the criminal courts.

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