Seniors deserve to live with dignity and respect
Abuse and neglect of an older person is any action or inaction by any person that causes harm to an older person.
Acknowledge - Suspicion of abuse may develop over time. Accumulate and document evidence.
Barriers - Fear of retaliation, withdrawal of caregiver support and breach of confidentiality creates barriers to seeking help.
Urgency - Assess immediate needs and potential risk of physical harm.
Screen - Assess person’s physical, emotional and mental capacity to help themselves.
Empower - Educate the person about their rights and available resources. Assist with establishing a safety plan
Refer - Seek support from, or consult with other professionals.
Check For abuse…
Any act of violence causing injury or physical discomfort, including sexual assault (e.g., slapping, pinching, punching or other rough handling; forcible restraint or intentional over/under medication).
Indicators – unexplained injuries in areas normally covered (e.g., bruises in various stages of healing, burns or bites), untreated medical problems, history of “accidents,” signs of over/ under medication, wasting, dehydration.
Any action or comment causing emotional anguish, fear or diminished self-esteem or dignity (e.g., threats to do harm, unwanted institutionalization, harassment, abandonment, imposed isolation, stopping a mentally capable senior from making his or her own decisions or choices). Indicators – fear, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, cowering, reluctance to talk openly, fearful interaction with caregiver, caregiver speaking on behalf of person and not allowing privacy.
Theft or exploitation of a person’s money, property or assets (e.g., fraud, forgery, misuse of Power of Attorney). Indicators – standard of living not in keeping with income or assets, theft of property noted, unusual or inappropriate activity in bank accounts, forged signatures on cheques, forcing a person to sign over property or execute a Will, overcharging for services or products, overdue bills, mail going missing.
Failure to provide basic or personal care needs (e.g., food, water, required medications, shelter, hygiene, clothing, exercise, social interaction, physical aids such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures), lack of attention, abandonment, undue confinement, inadequate supervision or safety precautions, withholding medical services/treatment
Indicators – Unkempt appearance, inappropriate or dirty clothing, signs of infrequent bathing, unhealthy living conditions, home environment dangerous and/or in disrepair, hoarding, lack of social contact, no regular medical appointments
Any physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse or neglect occurring within a facility (e.g., active victimization, withholding or denying individual care needs, failure to respect an individual’s rights, overmedication, misuse of chemical or physical restraints and/or failure to carry out reasonable requests).
Actual or threatened physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse of a person by someone with whom they have an intimate or familial relationship (e.g., aims to instill fear and/or to coercively control the individual).
The plan may include a change to an element of their environment or their relationship which could result in the elimination of the role of the abuser or context of the abuse. Consider:
Police services need to understand relevant provincial, territorial and federal privacy legislation in order to be able to access records and information relevant to investigations of allegations of abuse. Privacy legislation creates the rules about the collection, use and disclosure of information about individuals and when this collection, use and disclosure can be done with and without consent of the individual.
Privacy law is complex. It is recommended that you seek legal advice from your own agency/authority (legal counsel, internal directives, etc) to determine what legislation applies in your jurisdiction, to your particular investigation and how that legislation and the associated case law is interpreted in practice.
The federal government, and the provinces and territories, have passed legislation governing the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in a manner that recognizes the right of privacy of individuals with respect to their personal information and the need of organizations to collect, use or disclose personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances. There also may be provisions in other statutes (other than the specific privacy legislation) that may be relevant to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in reference to your investigation. In most provinces and territories, you need to consider both the federal and provincial/territorial legislation unless the federal legislation does not apply to your province.
For example, the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is applicable in all provinces and territories unless the province/territory has passed provincial/territorial legislation that has been determined to be substantially similar to PIPEDA. This is the case in Quebec, Alberta and BC.
Ontario has passed privacy legislation with respect to health information that is substantially similar to PIPEDA, but PIPEDA would still apply to non-health information in that province.
Issues addressed in privacy legislation include:
Provide information and support according to the interests expressed by the person. Be aware of services outside the health care system that are specific to the needs of any older adult or specific to the needs of older people who are being victimized or are at risk. These include social services, legal services, financial assistance, housing options and faith communities.
In considering using these questions, follow your professional standards in investigative interviewing and in obtaining client consent.
This tool is considered to be a promising approach based on front-line practice experience. It is an adaptation of the original that was developed in collaboration with the Hamilton Police Service, Hamilton Council Against Abuse of Older Persons, McMaster Centre for Gerontological Studies and Hamilton area hospitals.