New shelter awaits elder abuse victims

Elder abuse is different from spousal abuse

Golden Circle regularly receives calls about elder abuse, but so far no one has made the move to a two-bedroom shelter in Red Deer for seniors fleeing abuse.

“We’re getting a lot of requests but we haven’t had any clients that are eligible to live there. What we’re seeing a lot of is senior domestic violence and the contract for that particular location was elder abuse only — not spousal abuse,” said Monica Morrison, executive director of Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre, on Wednesday.

The only time a spouse could be involved in elder abuse is if he or she is the primary caregiver of a spouse deemed incompetent, she said.

According to Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, elder abuse is any action or inaction by a person or persons in a trusting relationship that causes harm and distress to an older adult. Abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual, financial, withholding medication or overmedicating, and neglect.

The Central Alberta shelter opened Sept. 6 at an undisclosed location with the help of funding from Red Deer and area Royal LePage Network.

Morrison said people often contact Golden Circle looking for information about elder abuse. At one point a senior from Three Hills was looking at using the shelter until other arrangements were made within her family.

She said abuse is difficult for seniors to address.

“When you make that move it starts a whole ripple effect potentially of family no longer engaging with you. And if the perpetrator is the only family member you have, even though it’s not a good relationship, it is a relationship. That’s the challenging part.”

Financial abuse is huge and sometimes grandparents are told they will lose access to grandchildren if they don’t do what their children want, she said.

“They are in a tough spot, but we have the space available and that’s what it’s all about.”

Right now Golden Circle is focused on letting seniors know the shelter and other supports are available.

“If leaving the home environment is not something they’re comfortable with at this point, at least they’re educated on what the options are to protect themselves. It’s really important for them to reach out and get information.”

She said shelters in Edmonton and Calgary have operated for many years and the need will grow in Central Alberta. Elder abuse in facilities also happens and in those cases Golden Circle can refer people to other programs.

Morrison said this year Golden Circle wants to work with schools to help educate children on elder abuse.

“If you’re going to change mindsets, you have to change them when they’re young. Break the cycle so that they don’t become the perpetrator when they get older.”

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