It can be difficult for most of us to imagine that anyone could abuse some of our most vulnerable citizens, but elder abuse is a growing problem in Canada. The VPD Elder Abuse Unit, along with Family Services of Greater Vancouver counsellors, investigate many of these disturbing, cruel, and often violent cases, involving physical, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect.
The VPD is launching the S.A.F.E. program, Safety Awareness for Elders today, June 15th, to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This proactive awareness campaign will educate seniors, family members, and care providers on recognizing the signs of elder abuse, and about prevention and safety, as well as how to connect with key resources in the community for seniors.
Elder abuse can be hidden within a family, or in a trusting relationship, sometimes for decades. Consider these two cases that were investigated by the VPD Elder Abuse Unit:
In December of 2015, an 85-year-old woman went down to her basement to determine where a chemical smell was coming from.
When she questioned her 56-year-old son about the smell, he threatened to kill her, punching her in the face, grabbing her by her housecoat and throwing her to the ground, then kicking her in the ankle and knee.
The woman was left on the basement floor and had to crawl upstairs into her bed.
Police were called by a family member the next day when the senior’s injuries were discovered. The son was arrested and charged with assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats. The investigation revealed there were incidents of verbal and physical abuse dating back more than 20 years.
The woman suffered visible injuries, but recovered physically from the incident.
In March of 2016, a 78-year-old mother was physically threatened by her 44-year-old son who was demanding money for drugs and alcohol.
The son had a history of coming to the family home several times a day seeking money.
On this occasion, he threatened to choke and beat his mother. She managed to lock herself in a safe room and call police, and her son was arrested a short time later.
He is currently facing a charge of uttering threats.
The S.A.F.E. program was made possible because of generous contributions from the BC Association of Community Response Networks and the Council to Reduce Elder Abuse, as well as the Vancouver Police Foundation.
Our senior demographic is growing and police have an important responsibility to not only respond to, but also prevent crimes against the elderly. This campaign will create conversation among families, care providers and senior citizen groups, and promote safety for the elderly in our communities.