If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of physical harm, call the police (at 911) immediately.
When you notice signs of abuse, having a conversation about it with the older adult can be difficult.
You may wonder why the older adult has not told you about the abuse. There are many reasons why people do not report abuse:
- shame that a family member treats them badly and therefore a need to keep the abuse hidden
- fear of making the situation worse, leading to more abuse
- fear of being placed in an institution
- fear of losing a caregiver or contact with a family member
- a belief that they are getting what they deserve
- a belief that police or social services cannot help them
- a belief that they cannot prove the abuse is happening
There are many ways to start the conversation with the older adult about the abuse. How you do so depends on the individual and the situation. Ideas include:
- directly and respectfully asking if the abuse is occurring
- encouraging them to contact others, such as a doctor, lawyer or social worker
- identifying benefits that can help them be more independent
- providing information about counselling services for the abused person or the person causing the abuse
- explaining that protecting the reputation of the person causing the abuse will not stop the abuse
- encouraging the use of community services, such as drop-in centres
- helping the older adult make an appointment to get a thorough health assessment
Remember, it is important that the older adult agree to any actions that are taken, unless the older adult is not mentally competent. Be careful to deal with cases of suspected abuse with care because the person causing the abuse might react negatively. Also, remember to respect the dignity of the older adult who can choose to accept or reject help.
For more resources, visit Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council’s website.