Ottawa

Abusers of elderly are often family: police

Relatives often worry about elderly parents or grandparents suffering abuse at the hands of strangers, but more than half of all elder abuse is committed by the victim's children, grandchildren or other relatives, Ottawa police say.

Relatives often worry about elderly parents or grandparents suffering abuse at the hands of strangers, but more than half of all elder abuse is committed by the victim's children, grandchildren or other relatives, Ottawa police say.

About 75 to 80 per cent of elder abuse involve a financial crime, and that crime is most often perpetrated by a member of the victim's family, said Det. Brenda McGillivray of the Ottawa police.

Overall, family members have been the suspect in 256 of 468 cases — 55 per cent — investigated by the Ottawa police elder abuse unit since it was established in January 2005.

Maggie Garrick, 87, is one Ottawa resident who fell victim to such a crime. A little over a year ago, most of the money she received from the sale of her condo went missing from her bank account. It turned out that someone had taken her debit card out of her wallet while she was working out, along with the paper where she had written her PIN, due to her failing memory.

Elder abuse in Ottawa

The Ottawa Police Service elder abuse unit has investigated 468 cases since January 2005 including:

  • 81 at private retirement homes.
  • 98 at regulated long-term care homes.
  • 33 involving personal support workers in the client's own home.
  • 256 cases where the suspect was a family member.

The investigations have led to 57 arrests and 623 charges.

Source: Ottawa Police Service elder abuse unit

"They were used to go the rounds of the bank machines and clean me out," she said. "And because I'm blind I had no idea they were gone, and put back, gone and put back until the bank called me one day and warned me." The crime was traced back to her granddaughter.

"It was devastating," Garrick recalled.

But she said she and her family got through it, police worked with the courts so her granddaughter didn't have to be charged, and although the money has yet to be repaid, she and her granddaughter have put the incident behind them.

However, she advises other seniors to be alert and not leave their wallet or cards lying around.

Power-of-attorney abuse common: police

McGillivray said many other cases of financial crime involve family members who abuse their power of attorney.

The fact that the suspect in the abuse is often a family member makes it hard for victims to come forward and may lead them to tolerate quite a lot of abuse.

"They don't really want to talk about, or really acknowledge out loud that their son or daughter, grand-daughter, grandson, might actually do this to them, might treat them this way," she said.

McGillivray said seniors can minimize their risk by having a lawyer draft documents designating power of attorney rather than drafting the documents themselves. In addition, she advises making sure conditions specify when power of attorney comes into effect so it can't be exploited immediately.