Let’s Get Real About Elder Abuse in 2011 – PART 3: Service Gaps on the Ground and CARP Recommendations

Start with Coordination and Rationalizing Services and Responses
Clearly, the patchwork of services, responsibility and accountability that is currently in place needs revision. To be sure, there is also a certain amount of redundancy and waste from seniors occupying beds in emergency rooms. A National Elder Abuse Strategy could rationalize the chain of responsibility, provide a coordinated response to replace the current chaos and provide appropriate training to all professionals who deal with abused seniors. This might need some investment initially but the considerable savings to be made in healthcare alone would likely outweigh the cost (for those members of the audience who are unconvinced by the human costs).

Redirect Public Spending from Awareness to Action
Perhaps there are other areas where cost savings could be made.

In 2008, the Federal Government launched a “Federal Elder Abuse Initiative” which consisted in a $13 million dollar investment over three years. A large part of the funding went to increasing awareness through an advertising campaign. CARP members were receptive to the campaign but when polled, said that new money should be spent on intervention and other services rather than more awareness campaigns.

Adopt/Adapt Best Practices from Elsewhere
Funding has also been allocated to researchers and non-profits to allow them to develop screening tools and create public education materials. While pamphlets might be helpful they do not provide new sophisticated information and have been replicated by different groups countless times – is it really necessary to allocate funding to several organizations so they can develop the same basic content – like “Signs of Elder Abuse”, etc? Specialized organizations will also get special funding to develop guidelines that will serve professionals in the field to determine whether bruising is naturally occurring or a result of abuse. Again, this kind of funding may be reinventing the wheel. There has already been extensive study of these issues in the United States. Finding out more about elder abuse in Canada remains important but surely, bruising there must be the same as it is here and we could train forensic nurses using similar toolkits… We need to look at creating efficiencies where we can…

Addressing Specific Needs Now

– Shelters There are several urgent and pressing needs in the area of elder abuse but none more glaring than the need for shelters dedicated to older adults. Older abuse victims often have special needs that regular shelters cannot meet because they are designed for persons who can live entirely independently and almost always give priority to women with children.

In Canada, there is only one real shelter for victims of elder abuse: Calgary’s Kerby Centre. The Centre is run by seniors for seniors and it is truly a model to be emulated: it offers a variety of assistance programs, provide room and board and has nursing staff. It employs 50 full-time workers and 400 volunteers.

Pat’s Place in Toronto opened in 2008. It is a small apartment that can be used as emergency shelter on a temporary basis but it offer neither counseling, personal care nor security. In this regard, it is not truly a shelter suitable for older victims of abuse.