NWT networks to stop older adult abuse

NWT networks to stop older adult abuse
Beatrice Campbell gives the keynote address at the “Leading the Way” conference in Nov. 2011, where, according to Mackay, the network project began to gain traction.Photo coyurtesy of the NWT Seniors’ Society.

In nearly a year since the network to prevent older adult abuse was created, the NWT Seniors’ Society, along with its partners in law enforcement and the department of Health and Social Services, have expanded their awareness campaign and begun offering workshops to help people stop abuse in their communities.

Angus Mackay, director of educational programming at the NWT Seniors’ Society, said workshops have been held in Fort Resolution and are scheduled for Fort Good Hope and Fort Smith toward the end of November.

“It’s about building partnerships within the community,” he said. “We want older adults to feel safe in their own homes and their own communities. The workshops and network are dealing with all the issues that relate to ensuring that.”

Mackay identified raising awareness of older adult abuse, developing and implementing pilot programs that would give people tools to stop it in various communities and training frontline workers to spot and deal with abuse as three key areas the network will focus on.

A grant of $700,000 from the federal government and up to $100,000 from the territorial department of Health and Social Services will fund the project moving forward in the next two to three years. Mackay indicated what while interagency committees in some towns could take preventing elder abuse into their mandates, others might create entirely new organizations to serve as safe havens for older adults.

“Between those two governments, we were able to move ahead with establishing pilots in a number of communities outside Yellowknife,” Mackay said.

The five towns chosen for the first phase of programming were Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence and Fort Good Hope. Mackay hopes they will serve as inspiration to others before the network expands into smaller communities.

The training of frontline workers to recognize elder abuse when they see it has been a primary goal in the last year and remains a priority. Mackay and his colleagues at the NWT Seniors’ Society have spoken to agencies employing frontline workers, mainly the territorial health authorities, to see what they require in terms of training and tools to help prevent older adult abuse.

“It goes beyond dealing head on with the issue of elder abuse. It has to, in some way, address issues around housing, unemployment and poverty,” Mackay said. “But we can’t do all of that at once. We have to zero in on making sure frontline workers understand the issues and are equipped to deal with them, and that the various agencies are working together to help address the issues older adults have.”

Beatrice Campbell, past president of the NWT Seniors’ Society, agreed that there are limitations to what they can do as an organization, but is confident that growing a network encompassing elders, service providers, law enforcement and government departments will ensure an effective response to the problem of older adult abuse.

“We’re just trying to get all the communities to work as one,” she said. “Even if we don’t stop it, just making people aware of it would be a big step.”

Campbell said the network was created to prevent all kinds of elder abuse, including physical and emotional, but that the most prevalent concern is financial exploitation. She said there needs to be a discussion with banks in the territory about what to do if employees suspect financial abuse.

The problem remains far reaching, but the NWT Seniors’ Society and its partners believe greater communication within and amongst communities is key to preventing older adult abuse.

“It’s just about getting more people involved with preventing elder abuse, and figuring out what types of tools we need to make it stop.”

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