Kitchener-Waterloo

Increase of elder abuse cases in Waterloo region saddening, but not surprising: advocate

Cases of elder abuse are on the rise in Waterloo region, according to new numbers released by the Waterloo Regional Police Service. 

According to new data, WRPS says there have been 149 reported cases of elder abuse so far this year

WRPS says there have been a total of 149 reported cases of elder abuse so far this year. (Shutterstock)

Cases of elder abuse are on the rise in Waterloo region, according to new numbers released by the Waterloo Regional Police Service. 

The police service says there have been 149 reported cases of elder abuse so far this year. That compares to an average of 96 reported cases per year over the past five years, according to WRPS.

Chloe Hamilton, volunteer chair of the elder abuse prevention council in Waterloo region, says the increase in reported cases is "saddening" but not surprising. 

The global pandemic may be a factor as to why elder abuse cases are increasing, she says. The number one reason people are vulnerable to elder abuse is isolation, according to Hamilton.

"When people are socially isolated and they don't have folks readily able to check up on them — whether it's neighbours, friends, family — it leaves them more vulnerable if the wrong type of person comes along," Hamilton told CBC News. 

Recognizing elder abuse

Hamilton says the most common type of elder abuse is financial abuse, often from those a senior citizen knows and trusts. 

She says some of the common signs that elder abuse is happening include withdrawing from social networks a shift in normal behaviour. 

Hamilton says the goal of the Elder Abuse Prevention Council is to help people recognize the warning signs, provide education and raise awareness about the issue. 

"It's to ensure that community members are willing to be that person — that kind, caring resource that vulnerable seniors could step forward to and say, 'You know, something's not right here,'" she said. 

Hamilton adds that people who see elder abuse happening should work with the senior citizen to ensure they feel comfortable and in control.

Even seniors themselves who might have been victim to an abuse, didn't want to come forward out of shame or embarrassment or fear.- Chloe Hamilton, volunteer chair of elder abuse prevention council

People can help an elder by asking if a situation they are facing seems right, or makes them feel uncomfortable.

"It's their right to be able to speak for themselves and to be able to have a voice in the situation," she said. 

Increase could be 'good sign' 

Despite seeing an increase of reported cases of elder abuse, Hamilton says that it could be "a good sign." 

"For many years, elder abuse was kind of this dark, hidden secret that existed in the community, but many people were turning a blind eye and not recognizing it or not wanting to admit it was there," she said. 

"Even seniors themselves who might have been victim to an abuse, didn't want to come forward out of shame or embarrassment or fear." 

However, Hamilton thinks more and more people are now breaking the stigma around elder abuse, and coming forward with their experiences because there has been more awareness raised on the issue. 

She adds that she hopes people continue to talk about elder abuse, and that it receives the same support as issues like child abuse and domestic violence. 

"Elder abuse deserves that same type of community support of people banding together saying as a community, as a society, 'It's not acceptable to treat people any differently just because they've reached a certain age.'"

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