The sensitive topic of elder abuse is being brought to the forefront in West Kelowna where a group of experts say it happens on a regular basis. They say that in most cases, it’s the elder’s children who are doing the abusing — whether it be financial, verbal and sometimes physical.
Micki Materi is a community response worker and deals with elder abuse all the time. She says people might be surprised to learn that most of the abuse cases she deals with happens from within the family.
“Certainly the majority of the elder abuse situations that I’ve seen is perpetuated by their adult children,” said Materi.
She says sometimes the abuse is verbal, sometimes physical.
“I also deal with the Vernon Women’s Transition House and I can certainly tell you that we’ve seen more older women coming into the transition house who are being physically assaulted by their adult children,” she said.
Gord Milsom is a certified financial advisor. He says the most common type of elder abuse is financial — again — mostly from adult children who feel they’re entitled to their parent’s money. But he says strangers are also preying on vulnerable seniors.
“I know of a situation that occurred here in Kelowna where a businessman befriended a senior and asked for some monies — a substantial amount of money — well over $100,000 to invest in his business,” said Milsom. “Unfortunately, there was no collateral, no document signed. The business owner had some cash-flow problems, went bankrupt and unfortunately the senior lost all of that money.”
In an effort to counter elder abuse, the Interior Health Authority created a help-line for seniors. IHA says some seniors alleging abuse have reached out.
“The most common type of report that we’re seeing tends to be neglect from family members. And during the investigation from our staff, we find that verbal and financial abuse is often occurring,” said Brett Butchart of IHA.
But the phones lines are certainly not burning up. IHA says that only 40 people have used the hotline since its launch in May. It speculates that’s because seniors who are being abused are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal.
Interior Health admits it’s disappointed with the number of tips it has received from its elder abuse hotline since its launch in May. It says it plans on ramping up awareness about the service in the near future. The number is: 1-844-870-4754.