A message from Dr. Evan Adams, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, held annually on June 15, is an official United Nations public health event to raise awareness of and prevent actions or inactions that threaten the health and well-being of older adults.
Although the abuse of older adults (those who are 65+) is commonly referred to as “elder abuse," I'll call it “senior abuse" as in our communities we use the term “Elder" to refer to traditional knowledge carriers and teachers. Not all seniors are Elders, and not all Elders are seniors.
Sadly, abuse and neglect of seniors can happen anywhere, including in First Nations communities. Worse still, it's often under/unreported. The Ministry of Health reports that as many as 10 per cent of seniors in British Columbia (BC) will experience some form of abuse in their later years, and one in 12 seniors will experience financial abuse from caregivers, family members, or trusted friends.
First Nations communities know how valuable our older people are. They are our teachers, grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles, knowledge keepers, and traditional language speakers. They have raised, guided, and protected us. They have supported us when we needed them. When they are old they need us, and we should be there for them. I was fortunate to have been able to move back to my community, Tla'amin First Nation, a few years ago. I am so glad that I got to spend more time with my father, who passed away this year, and that I am still able to spend time with my mother. I honour, respect and cherish my parents for all they have done for me, our family, and our community, and I take their safety quite seriously.
We all have a role to play in ensuring safe, supportive communities that we can live and grow old in. The BC Association of Community Response Networks is a group of social, community, and health service organizations, government agencies, community-minded individuals, local business, and seniors who have come together to build awareness of senior abuse and neglect. They provide workshops to help community workers recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, identify those who can take action, and develop coordinated responses to cases of abuse and neglect of vulnerable seniors.
Visit bccrns.ca for more information about preventing and responding effectively to senior abuse and neglect – or to book a workshop in your community on this issue. You can also read this article by Dr. Nel Wieman, which includes information on how to recognize the signs of senior abuse.
Let's take care of our seniors and Elders!