Legacy of Protecting Seniors

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 7:06 a.m. March 15, 2016
Updated: 8:57 a.m. March 15, 2016

As she retires from policing, Constable Pat Fleischmann probably has the best understanding of the joys, challenges and responsibilities that come with growing older.

A close up of a woman
Constable Pat Fleischmann

The 30-year Toronto Police Service veteran served as the Vulnerable Persons Coordinator for nearly 16 years, working with seniors groups as well as educating officers and the public about elder abuse and crime prevention.

That interest heightened about seven years ago when she became more involved in her aging parents lives.

“My father had asked me to be his power-of-attorney and I didn’t realize what that entailed when I signed those documents,” said Fleischmann, who retired in early March. “Without question, that experience, alone I think, has made a tremendous difference in how I view this work because certainly it was professional up to that point. Now it was personal. By viewing this through another lens, I was able to bring something more to the table in terms of added value.

“I not only talk it, but I live it and breathe it myself. So, when I hear the stories, I am in a much-better position to empathise because I have been there, too. I have travelled that road myself and I have a greater appreciation for what families go through when their elders are abused.”

A graduate of Durham College, McMaster University and Ryerson University, where she completed her gerontology certificate, Fleischmann was a national and international elder abuse educator for police and non-law-enforcement agencies.

A woman in TPS uniform at a podium
Constable Pat Fleischmann speaks to reporters about elder abuse at a news conference

She presented on seniors and aging to parliamentary sub-committees federally and provincially, senior policy-makers and law enforcement officials and countless advocacy groups, and was an active TPS social media user.

“I have been privileged to have tremendous opportunities while working with the Toronto Police Service,” said Fleischmann who, with Constable Al Fujino, developed the first domestic violence course for the Service. “I have had the honour of working in an area I feel very strongly about, and I have been able to travel to New Zealand, Australia and other Canadian provinces. I value my role as an advocate for older adults, to find a voice by providing them with tools and resources to help them move forward and make the decisions that are in their best interest. I have enjoyed a career that has been mainly community focused and the work I have done with seniors, who are susceptible to elder abuse and fraud, has been very gratifying.”

Starting at 52 Division, Fleischmann was also assigned to 41 and 21 Divisions before being appointed the Service’s Vulnerable Persons Coordinator.

“As I got my feet wet in that position, the more I realized I didn’t know about older adults, abuse and neglect, the aging process and the fact that, if I was to function effectively in that role, I needed to know so much more than simply the criminal justice slice of the pie,” she said. “I needed to know about retirement, care facilities, dementia, cognitive impairment and so many different things.”

What made Pat exceptional was her passion and drive to continually add new dimensions to the discussion of improving and enhancing our level of service to seniors

Fleischmann said everyone should be mindful of seniors being taken advantage of. 

Signs of financial abuse include the changing of power-of-attorney, lost jewelry or other valuables, change in level of care, insufficient money for the necessaries of life, for example, hearing aids or glasses and/or seniors signing legal documents they do not understand.

“This is a population that is regrettably underserviced,” Fleischmann, a past advisory member on the Elder Abuse Ontario board of directors and author of two chapters in the 2010 e-book, “Aging” and “Ageism & Abuse” said.

Detective Sergeant Cam Field, the investigating training section head, worked with Fleischmann for eight years on a variety of projects aimed at keeping seniors safe.

“What made Pat exceptional was her passion and drive to continually add new dimensions to the discussion of improving and enhancing our level of service to seniors,” said Field, who made rotating appearances with Fleischmann on Zoomer Radio AM 740, every month, to spread the fraud-prevention message to a wider audience.  “We recently worked with her on creating our first elder-abuse investigating course at the college and I was impressed by how profoundly respected she is in this field. We will feel her departure immediately and I was honoured to have worked with her. She epitomized our Service’s commitment to our community.”

A founding member of Law Enforcement Agencies Protecting Seniors, Fleischmann was a staunch supporter of Victim Services Toronto, since the agency’s inception 25 years ago.

“She has been a tremendous advocate for marginalized voices, particularly focused on seniors,” said Victim Services Toronto executive director Bonnie Levine.  “As a sought-after and respected speaker at a variety of conferences and events, event organizers would often want to do something to recognize her impact. When asked, Patricia would always advise that Victim Services Toronto is a charity she supports.  Over the years Victim Services Toronto has received many donations in recognition of Patricia’s speaking engagements.  She has had a profound effect on many people throughout her career, including all of us at Victim Services Toronto.”

Though she’s no longer with the Service, Fleischmann plans to continue her work with seniors.

“I am not ready to give up working with them and issues related to them,” she said. “I have said goodbye to my external stakeholders and many of them have reached out, asking me to come back in some capacity. Exciting possibilities are starting to present themselves. I just know there is a world of possibilities out there. I have mixed emotions about leaving the Service because there is still something left for me to give. I am not just sure what capacity that will be in.”

In the meantime, Fleischmann is focused on completing culinary courses at George Brown College.

She is pursuing vegetarian and healthy culinary arts certificates.

“I love cooking and I have a cousin who is a holistic culinary nutritionist,” said Fleischmann, a long-time member of Bringing an Awareness of Safe Senior Issues to the Community, a multi-level, multi-jurisdictional, cross-sectional non-government organization responsible for producing a national safety calendar, said. “I am toying with the idea of getting into health coaching or pursuing nutrition. I am still trying to figure out that I want to do when I grow up.”

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