June 28, 2013: A small but insistent proportion of members have been abused as elders across the years we’ve polled, but many more know someone who has been abused, more than 6 times the official estimates, which would indicate substantial under-reporting.
There is agreement that greater public and official/media awareness will lead to the increasingly socially taboo status of elder abuse, but there is some division of opinion on whether all elder abuse is automatically a crime or whether some cases should be handled informally. There are seen to be exceptions for dementia, other seniors and family caregivers, some of whom may require treatment rather than sanctions.
While elder abuse is not seen to be as socially unacceptable as child abuse, there is agreement it will become so, on average, members think, in about 9 years. The chief motivators for elder abuse by those in trust are seen to be either caregiver burnout and frustration or lack of empathy for older people.
While elder shelters are seen to be useful, many agree that most want to stay in their homes, and fear of losing one’s home is seen to be one of the most common reasons abuse is not reported, along with fear of retribution and the fact the abuser may be a close family member. An emergency hotline is seen to be an essential tool and most would use one, some anonymously. There is very little awareness of existing hotlines. The first report of abuse is seen to be to the family, not to authorities.
The majority would cast their vote depending on a candidate’s commitment to a sustained and comprehensive national program of anti-elder abuse programming. The Conservatives have lost favour among members to the Liberals, who now lead in voter preference. The NDP is in deep third place.
While members are deeply concerned with the seriousness and outcomes of elder abuse, and the need for uncompromising action, they also understand it is not a black-and-white problem, but has shades of nuance which defy easy solutions.