Action needed to stop elder abuse: Advocates

Click here to read “Action needed to stop elder abuse: Advocates” by Antonella Artuso – Toronto Sun, June 15, 2015

Seniors advocates are calling for mandatory reporting of suspected elder abuse.

Susan Eng, of CARP, said anyone who believes that an elderly person is being exploited, neglected or physically harmed should be required to report it to authorities.

“Usually this is a crime that happens within a closed circle, usually with family and often the person being abused just doesn’t want to report on their own son or daughter or caregiver,” Eng said. “And so you need the help of a third party.”

Mario Sergio, the Ontario Minister Responsible for Seniors, said his government has already enshrined mandatory reporting into the law governing retirement and long-term care homes.

The minister said he would certainly consider extending the reporting requirement beyond the existing legislation.

“We try and stress the importance of recognizing and reporting every case of seniors abuse,” Sergio said. “We have zero tolerance.”

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and the CN Tower will light up purple Monday night to mark the designation.

Given the hidden nature of the crime, it’s estimated that 10% of the seniors population — and as high as 30% — have been subjected to some form of abuse.

Karen Sibal, manager of Peel Elder Abuse Prevention Network, said incidences of elder abuse are on the rise but are often under reported.

“It’s sort of like where child abuse and domestic abuse was like maybe 15 years ago, 20 years ago, there was that lack of awareness,” she said.

One Brampton senior who came into their Peel office described how her two adult sons badgered her for access to her bank accounts so they could purchase expensive vacations.

The adult children had used up their father’s resources, after he went into long-term care, and had now devoted their attention to their mother’s money.

She received harassing phone calls every night.

“We see more adult children having a sense of entitlement,” Sibal said. “There’s a sense of stigma and shame in coming forward because the older person will say, ‘This is my son doing this to me, or my daughter, and I raised them.’”

Eng said the recent case of Norma Marshall, the elderly Toronto woman whose home and financial accounts were allegedly taken over by an unscrupulous housekeeper, points to the need for mandatory reporting.

The prosecutor in another case in which a wheelchair-bound woman died of neglect told her there must have been been dozens of points where someone could have intervened, Eng said.

“We have to look at that whole regime that we eventually constructed around the issue of spousal abuse and apply it here again,” she said.

The answer is to create a system where abuse is reported, investigated and prosecuted if necessary, and where supports are in place for the victim, she said.

Beyond that, there needs to be an “age-friendly” society where seniors have opportunities to stay engaged and where people check up on each other, she said.

Understanding the risk to socially isolated seniors, Mario said his government is already investing millions of dollars annually in programs in communities across the province.

Ontario is also spending on community care to help seniors stay in their homes where they’re most usually most comfortable.

To drive home the message that elder abuse should be reported, there have have been training sessions for thousands of health care workers and other frontline workers to recognize the problem and respond, he said.

“Making it mandatory? Absolutely,” Mario said of reporting. “I have no problem with it.”


  • An Orillia senior, 76, was found crying in pain and asking for her mom, covered in vomit and feces in a dark room where the window had been spray-painted black. The woman’s daughter and son-in-law Diana and James Davy, of Orillia, were found guilty of failing to provide the necessities of life, and sentenced in January to one year in jail and two years probation.
  • Police alleged a housekeeper hired for Toronto resident Norma Marshall, 94, in 2010 moved her own family into the home, relegated the senior to a small room and took over her finances, stealing most of her life’s savings. The housekeeper and her husband were arrested and charged.
  • An online romance scam cost a Brantford senior $400,000. The woman’s first foray into Internet dating last year attracted a con artist who had her mail money to him in Ghana and the U.K., and while her financial institution raised concerns, the funds were already gone.


  • Bruises, rope marks, fractures, untreated injuries
  • Broken eyeglasses, missing personal items
  • Caregiver won’t allow visitors to see elder alone
  • Elder upset, agitated, withdrawn, non-communicative
  • Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, poor personal hygiene
  • Sudden changes in bank account or banking practices
  • Unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by person accompanying senior
  • Inclusion of additional names on elder’s bank signature card
  • Abrupt changes in will or other financial documents
  • Bills unpaid despite adequate financial resources
  • Sudden appearance of uninvolved relative claiming right to elder’s affairs and possessions
  • Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside family
  • A senior’s accusation of abuse

(Source: National Centre on Elder Abuse, U.S.)