Elder abuse is frequently more subtle than bumps and bruises, but even when it is financially-driven, it is still abuse, said Constable Eric Latwaitis of the RCMP’s Fort Smith detachment.
Latwaitis addressed a crowd of senior citizens, special care workers and concerned citizens on the topic of elder abuse at the Northern Lights Special Care Home in Fort Smith on Friday, which was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. He focused on the causes and indications of financial abuse, which he said is a larger issue in the North than physical abuse.
“I think it may be a larger issue in the North because the families are so close and there are so many multi-family homes,” Latwaitis told The Journal.
Although very few official reports cross RCMP desks, Latwaitis said he knows elder abuse is occurring. Taking advantage of a senior citizen financially can fall under the Canadian criminal code, but Latwaitis noted elders often do not want to be responsible for having family members arrested. It is an uphill battle, he said.
Elder financial abuse is the use of a senior’s money either through theft or dishonesty. It can include outright theft, skimming off the top when cashing cheques on their behalf, pressuring seniors to sign documents or modify their wills, or even placing undue financial stress on them by living with them without paying a fair share of the bills, Latwaitis told the crowd.
“Don’t feel obliged to the younger generation to help them when they don’t want to help themselves,” he said.
Latwaitis urged seniors to be cautious with whom they share sensitive information, including bank and credit card PINs. He also warned seniors about phone scams and others who might take advantage of their generosity or inability to easily say “no.”
Latwaitis said he has dealt with several cases of elder abuse during his three years in the North. One case involved a senior who wanted company and was taken advantage of by people using her home to drink in.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day aims to educate the public about different types of elder abuse – physical, financial, emotional, neglect and others. According to the Support Network, which provides crisis support centres and phone lines to northern Alberta, financial and emotional abuse are the two most common types of elder abuse in Canada.