Provincial efforts to fight against elder abuse
CARP sent a letter to all provincial Justice Ministers earlier in the summer, urging immediate action against elder abuse and called for a comprehensive response to help detect, investigate, and prosecute elder abuse as well as provide victim support services. We have received responses from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland, and are still awaiting responses from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Most provinces have recently implemented programs and services to fight elder abuse, but there is still a need for more comprehensive strategies and national standards.
Elder abuse support line, awareness and education campaigns are most common
The good news is that each province recognized the importance of raising the issue of elder abuse and has various programs to fight it. There were two types of programs that were most common among the provinces: education campaigns and elder abuse support lines. Most provinces have made an effort to educate and inform the public about the need to recognize, prevent, and intervene in cases of elder abuse. Most target service providers, particularly those that are working in community organizations, hospitals, nursing homes, and other supportive housing. Most provinces also have an elder abuse support line with trained counsellors who provide information, advice, and referrals 24 hours and toll-free, with the exception of Nova Scotia where the service is provided only on weekdays during normal business hours. PEI was the only province that does not have support line, and instead, people are expected to call the police.
Investigation and prosecution resources and training are lacking
There was no mention of investigation and prosecution resources and training specifically targeted at elder abuse, with the exception of Alberta that has investigation and identification of elder abuse included in police training. Most provinces have their police force and other professionals working with the law trained to investigate and prosecute in family violence cases, but few are trained specifically to deal with elder abuse. Some municipalities may have divisions that have identified elder abuse as their responsibility, but there seem to be lack of a provincial standard.
Comprehensive strategies are still needed
Most provinces are increasing their efforts to address elder abuse, but provinces must be reminded that there is no single solution. Currently, provinces have invested mostly in victim support services and now need to ensure that investments are also made for elder abuse to be detected, investigated, and prosecuted. There has to be a comprehensive approach, in which one strategy cannot be implemented in isolation. For example, a few provinces have a mandatory duty to report for service providers that work with seniors. However, without it being supported by professional investigative capacity to respond to the reports, the duty to report would be meaningless.
Provinces, such as Alberta and British Columbia, have provincial elder abuse strategies that outline more comprehensive approaches to addressing elder abuse, both of which reflect CARP`s recommendations. CARP is urging governments to commit to implementing a comprehensive strategy to fight elder abuse that includes the following:
Detection of elder abuse
- A duty to report by front line workers supported by investigative capacity and enforcement
- Stringent protocols and standards of care in residential care homes to report and prevent abuse, supported by investigative capacity and enforcement
- Elder abuse hotline to report abuse
- Good Samaritan protection for reporting/intervention
Investigation and prosecution of elder abuse
- Police resources and training specifically on dealing with elder abuse
- Prosecution resources and training
- Sensitization of judges to issues and laws affecting elder abuse
- A national 1-800 line, such as Ontario’s 211, with adequate promotion, funding, extension to remaining provinces
- Funding and proper training for the counsellors who answer the calls and in social services agencies
- Shelters for seniors experiencing abuse
September 6, 2013
Read the Elder Abuse Response Letters: