POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 65 Does the older person have associations with other seniors in the community to discuss or compare experiences? 5. How many older people are abused? It is difficult to say how many older persons are abused, neglected, or exploited, in large part because of a lack of awareness and understanding of senior abuse. Situations of abuse are frequently not reported and the problem remains greatly hidden. The best information available indicates that between 4% and 10% of older adults experience abuse. This means that in Nova Scotia approximately 5,000 to 13,500 older people experience harm and poor health or well-being because of abuse. Because abuse is severely underreported, it is believed that this number is far greater. This number is also known to be higher in certain settings such as institutions, including long-term care facilities. Because women live longer than men and there are more older women than there are older men, senior abuse is and will continue to be a significant women’s issue. More older women are abused than men, however, even when adjusted for their greater numbers. 7. What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse? Some seniors are more at risk than others. Those who are older, socially isolated, have reduced cognitive capacity, have disabilities and are dependent, and those cared for by people with an addiction (such as alcohol, drugs or gambling) are at higher risk. Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease) are two factors that may make an older person more vulnerable to abuse. But, in some situations, studies show that living with someone else (a caregiver or a friend) may increase the chances for abuse to occur. A history of domestic violence may also make a senior more susceptible to abuse. Families that have a history of poor relationships or mental health problems may also be at higher risk. Senior abuse affects people of all education levels, sexual orientation, ability, and social, economic and ethnic backgrounds and cultures. It affects both men and women. 8. Who abuses older people? Most abuse is committed by someone the senior knows, such as a family member, friend, caregiver, landlord, (paid) care provider, or a person who provides a service (e.g. financial advisor or home maintenance person). Abusers of older adults are both women and men. Family members are more often the abusers than any other group. For several years, data showed that adult children were the most common abusers of family members. Recent information, however, indicates spouses are the most common perpetrators when data concerning older adults and vulnerable adults is combined. 9. Are there criminal penalties for the abusers? Some abusive actions are defined as crimes, but not all abuse is considered criminal. The Criminal Code of Canada describes the different offences that someone can be charged with if they are accused of abusive actions toward older adults. The relevant provisions relate to physical and sexual abuse, chronic psychological abuse, neglect, loss of rights (as under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), property theft, breach of trust and breach of power of attorney, extortion, fraud and false pretenses, and intimidation. Because not all behaviour believed to be abusive falls under the Criminal Code, a range of resources and supports are necessary to be able to respond to cases of abuse. It is also important to note that while there are commonly accepted definitions of abuse, the way abuse is defined in legislation may vary. This becomes important when one looks to available legal responses, and it emphasizes the need for a range of resources and supports. About Senior Abuse . . . Continued Continued