Let’s Get Real About Elder Abuse in 2011 – PART 2: Systems Currently in Place

Provincial adult protection legislation exists in Manitoba, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia but it was varies from province to province. Each of the statutes has a different scope and reporting requirements. For example, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia provide for the mandatory reporting of cases of neglect and abuse, whereas New Brunswick’s legislation only refers to voluntary reporting by a “professional person”. While it does provide for both emergency and long-term intervention when an adult is abused – the majority of interventions are within the legal purview of either health or social services departments.

In British Columbia where the designated entity is Provincial Health Services – the approach has been less than triumphant. Medical personnel alone cannot always meet the demands of these complex cases. Often, older victims do not need medical intervention; they need counseling, home-based services, legal services and financial assistance.

Upon receiving information that an adult is being neglected or abused, social services are dispatched to investigate the case in all jurisdictions with adult protection legislation with the exception of PEI. Remedial measures available to social services may consist of providing the adult with necessary social services, including homemaker services, or referring the case to an appropriate agency (including the police, a community service agency, another government department or agency or a hospital or other institution), although remedial measures also vary from province to province.

Adult guardianship legislation exists in every province and sets out rules concerning the designation of adults as mentally incapable. Ontario’s Substitute Decisions Act for example gives the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) various powers to investigate into abuse or neglect, where the victim is a mentally incapable adult and either refer the victim to the appropriate services or apply to the court for temporary guardianship of the victim. However, the PGT does not act as an adult protection agency nor provide direct protective services. The problem is that there are many older adults in need of an intervention that are not mentally incapable, only vulnerable. The PGT can only refer their client to the services available within the communities, which are often lacking. The non-profit sector attempts to bridge the gaps but funding for the sector (government agencies and non-profit) is lacking. This results in low salaries and insufficiently trained staff with high caseloads trying to manage the boatload of complex allegations and intractable situations.

Up next: Service Gaps on the Ground and CARP Recommendations

Keywords: elder, abuse, mental impairment, guardianship, assistance