When it comes to preventing elder abuse, the approach is a bit like doing a puzzle.
“We figure out what’s missing,” says Pat Power, a Community Development Social Worker with the City of Edmonton. “Then we fill the gaps in services with our partners.”
Formed in 1998, the Seniors Protection Partnership (SPP) is a team of five partners working together to prevent and end elder abuse in Edmonton. The partnership is made up of members from the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Police Service, Catholic Social Services, Covenant Health and Sage Seniors Association. Last year, the SPP provided direct service to more than 200 seniors and their families in high risk situations in Edmonton. The team also provided 17 presentations to professional and student groups in Edmonton, helping to raise awareness about the issue of elder abuse to more than 500 people.
Like other types of family violence, elder abuse is a complex issue. The abuse situations most often involve family members, and are influenced by the physical and mental conditions of both the abuser and the victim. That’s why the collaborative approach of SPP is so important.
The team takes a multidisciplinary approach, working at prevention and intervention to meet the needs of vulnerable seniors. The City of Edmonton is involved on the prevention side, while Catholic Social Services and Edmonton Police Services work on the day-to-day, intervention side. Covenant Health provides support around mental and physical health, and Sage Seniors Association provides follow up support.
“The best part is that you can always get a different perspective on how to problem solve with your clients,” says Rasheal Charles, Catholic Social Services Team Lead. “We might be looking at it from an angle where the problem might not be able to be solved through social work services, so it’s always nice to be like ‘what can we do for the client health-wise?’ or ‘how can we resolve the issue in regards to justice?’”
Over the years, the SPP has worked together to create innovative services for seniors in the Edmonton community. This includes the Seniors’ Safe House, which is now managed by Sage Seniors Association and a Seniors’ Abuse Helpline, which is now managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The SPP has also worked with financial institutions to help prevent the issue of financial abuse. Financial abuse is defined as the misuse of an elderly person’s funds or property, and it’s one of the most common forms of elder abuse in Canada. The SPP worked with more than 35 representatives from financial institutions to create a training package, which is used to help identify financial elder abuse.
While the SPP has made progress, there is still a lot of work to do. Three years ago, the SPP received a grant to start building connections with immigrant serving organizations and has been working together with the communities to figure out how to best serve them.
“Building relationships has always been an important part of our work,” says Power. “We wanted to look at the community as a whole and become more inclusive in how we’re serving elders.”
Ultimately, preventing elder abuse is a community effort. As the team looks toward the future, taking a coordinated approach remains key, says Charles.
“It’s nice to have a different perspective and that’s the beauty of the collaboration.
You have more hope and more resources to work at supporting the client.”
For more information on the Seniors Protection Partnership, edmonton.ca/seniors
If you have a concern about a senior, call the Elder Abuse Intake Line at 780-477-2929.