Jan26FriJanuary 26, 2018
An Ottawa-area church plans on spending part of 2018 teaching their community how to recognize and prevent elder abuse.
Cedarview Alliance Church in Nepean has prepared workshops about the topic, with funding from the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program. The grant from Employment and Social Development Canada helps organizations deliver programs that benefit seniors, including public education about elder abuse.
“People need to better understand what elder abuse is and how to prevent it, especially as the population ages,” said Lena Mills, a pastor of family and children ministries at the church who helped with the grant application. Seniors, like children and youth, are vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse. But they face the added threat of financial abuse. They may be prevented from accessing their money, or become the target of scams. Seniors receiving long-term care could be over- or under-medicated.
“I think some people may be at the hands of abuse and not realize it,” said Mills. Seniors need to feel confident to report suspected abuse. Community members need to know warning signs so they know when they need to contact someone if they suspect abuse. People are often more educated about recognizing and responding to child abuse than they are to elder abuse, said Mills.
“Reporting opens up the situation and opens up the conversation,” Mills said. Without proper reporting, no one can get the help they need.
Sometimes, people may be doing something to care for a senior that could be considered abuse, said Mills. They may confine a senior alone in a room, or tie and restrain them to a bed so they don’t hurt themselves. People may have good intentions, or just be overwhelmed by the stresses of caregiving. They could be “crossing boundaries that (they) don’t realize in (their) efforts to do good,” said Mills. Explaining what elder abuse is helps everyone, including those who may have been committing potentially abusive acts.
Church members have been trained to deliver the workshops, both at church activities for seniors and in partnership with community organizations. Mills said she expects the presentations will change as they continue to learn about this topic.
Cedarview Alliance Church has had ministries to seniors for years. The congregation has a number of members in their nineties. They have a seniors’ choir and regular social activities for seniors. Church volunteers visit seniors in their homes or long-term care facilities. Programs for seniors, like those for children and youth, include sign-in procedures. Volunteers visit in pairs and in public places. Often, volunteers visit when a senior’s family member is present. This is partly because relatives are often more comfortable helping with toileting or transferring people from beds to chairs, said Mills.
Even with all this experience, though, the congregation knew they still had a lot to learn. That’s why Cedarview turned to Plan to Protect® to help them develop the workshops on elder abuse.
A success criteria for the New Horizon’s grant is partnerships with community agencies. Cedarview Alliance Church has been a proud member of Plan to Protect® for over 10 years, accessing their best practices and policies for their children and youth’s programs, and then their seniors’ programs.
“We were thrilled to be approached by Cedarview to be a partner with them on the New Horizon’s project to raise awareness of elder abuse,” says Plan to Protect® President, Melodie Bissell. “We have developed the curriculum and have equipped and coached the trainers. In this one hour seminar for seniors, we cover abuse awareness, recognizing and reporting abuse and practical ways to reduce the risk of being abused. This training will provide the knowledge to empower seniors to protect themselves and their friends,” said Bissell.The church constantly wants to improve its abuse prevention practices, said Mills. Plan to Protect® has helped them with programs in the past, so it was a perfect partner for the New Horizon’s project. Cedarview is eager to share what they’ve learned with others. The training begins early 2018.
“There’s just a culture that seems to accept abuse,” said Mills. “I feel that anything we can do to stand up against that culture to help people understand a better way forward, that’s worth doing.”