As members of our community continue to navigate the economic and emotional challenges of the global pandemic, our seniors may also be dealing with increased or ongoing abuse.
Elder abuse is an issue that doesn’t often get the same attention as comparable types of mistreatment, including domestic and child abuse. This lack of awareness contributes to a large amount of undetected and unreported incidents of elder abuse each year, including financial, emotional and physical.
“To make matters worse, the abuse is often at the hand of a trusted family member or other person close to the victim,” said Const. Mark McCabe, Vulnerable Persons Coordinator with the Toronto Police Service. “Although the call may appear to be a family issue, sometimes these family members are presenting a real danger to the senior.”
In our efforts to improve the ability of officers to respond to and detect cases of elder abuse, the Toronto Police Service continually looks to the community for guidance. “We regularly consult with experts in this field to help educate our members so they know what their options are before they walk into these scenarios,” said McCabe. “It’s important that our frontline officers improve their ability to detect and respond to these cases.”
This community engagement led to the creation of the Seniors Community Consultative Committee (CCC) in 2016. The committee includes seniors’ advocates, subject matter experts and members from across all levels of the TPS. The group meets regularly to discuss ways to make Toronto a safer place for older adults.
This partnership resulted in the creation of a training video (watch below) for our front-line and investigative members to help educate them about signs to look for when they are attending calls for service. While there may not be obvious signs of abuse, officers can determine several things by asking questions and making observations while out in the field. The video will become a regular training tool that officers can draw from when attending calls involving seniors and their family members.
“These calls aren’t always going to present themselves as ‘elder abuse,’ they could be for a vulnerable person, landlord tenant dispute, well-being checks, or noise complaints,” said McCabe. “It’s important for officers to know what they’re looking for and to recognize any deeper issues that might be going on.”
Community partner and seniors’ advocate Kim Whaley of Whaley Estate Litigation (WEL) says elder abuse is an ever increasing societal concern.
“Many of our senior population suffer financial abuse and neglect which too often goes undetected,” she said. “Know how to identify the abuse and learn about available tools and resources. It’s a community problem. Know your community. Everyone has an obligation to protect the vulnerable.”
As our population continues to age, we will unfortunately continue to see more incidents of elder abuse. This video is also valuable for members of the public, to help them recognize and report signs of elder abuse in their own communities and social circles.
To learn more about elder abuse and become better informed on the issue visit elderabuseontario.com.