Elder abuse: The hidden crime
Where can older people get help?
There are many services that can help older people who are being abused. They can help even if their main focus is not on elder abuse.
Staff and volunteers of agencies that provide professional services, community support services, homemaking, and personal support services should know how to recognize elder abuse.
They should also know what options and resources are available in their community to help seniors deal with financial, physical, and mental abuse, including information on preventing abuse.
These services can:
- help seniors become more independent, particularly from their abusers
- provide options to seniors who are socially isolated
- help reduce the stress between a caregiver and the older person
- make referrals to special services that help the abuser deal with aggression, anti-social behaviour, or drug and alcohol abuse
- support the senior who wants to keep a relationship with their abuser
Even if seniors are being abused at home, many want to stay in their own homes or to continue to live with relatives instead of moving into a retirement or long-term care home.
These seniors and their relatives need help to deal with the abuse that is happening at home.
If you are being abused, or if you think someone else is being abused, you can get advice or help from health and social service agencies and other professionals.
For some services, seniors may need to be assessed by a professional, such as a doctor, nurse, social worker, or case manager. This can be arranged through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). There is more about LHINs in the next section.
Whether an older person qualifies for a particular service will depend on their medical and social needs.
Across Ontario, you can call 211 to find out about services available in your community. You can also look online at www.211ontario.ca.
Community legal clinics
Community legal clinics can often give you free legal advice and help about issues related to elder abuse. To find the community legal clinic nearest you, go to Legal Aid Ontario's website at www.legalaid.on.ca/en.
Or call Legal Aid Ontario:
TTY use Bell Relay Service: 1-800-855-0511
The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is a community legal clinic that specializes in the legal problems and needs of older adults in Ontario.
To find out more, visit their website at www.acelaw.ca. Or call them at 416-598-2656 or 1-855-598-2656.
Home care and community services
In Ontario, Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) provide free care services to eligible people. LHINs are funded by the Ontario government's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The LHIN gives information about services for seniors and decides who is eligible for free services. They help plan how services will be provided, and find places in long‑term care homes if necessary.
There is a broad range of community, personal support, and health-care services that older people may need on an occasional or ongoing basis. Many of these services can help a victim of abuse live more independently.
If you need or want any long-term care services, call the LHIN in your area. The LHIN will either help you directly or refer you somewhere that can.
You can find contact information for your LHIN by calling 310-2222 or visiting www.healthcareathome.ca.
The LHIN case manager will do an assessment to decide the services you need and are eligible for. After discussing the options with you, the case manager will arrange for you to get the services.
The LHIN can arrange some of the following services or provide information about them.
Home care services
Health services are provided by professionals in an older person's house, apartment, or retirement home. This includes services by nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, speech therapists, and dietitians.
Seniors may also be eligible for medical supplies, equipment, dressing supplies, and prescription drugs.
Personal support services provide physical help with the activities of daily living for people who need it because they are ill or have a permanent physical disability. This includes assistance with personal hygiene.
Homemaking services help with tasks that are related to an older adult's personal care needs. This can include cleaning, shopping, paying bills, planning menus, and preparing meals.
There is no charge for home care services arranged through the LHIN.
Community support services
Here are some types of community support services that are available to older adults. To find out what is available in your area, contact your LHIN or call 211.
Adult day programs
Adult day programs usually take place in seniors' centres or long-term care homes. They offer a variety of activities and a chance to spend time with others.
Older people can get personal care, meals, and sometimes a ride to and from the centres. Fees are usually based on what the person can afford.
These programs bring groups of older people together for meals and social activities. Most programs are held in community centres or churches. People may be able to get a ride to the club.
Help with errands and appointments
These services help those who are not able to leave their homes on their own because they have physical, psychological, or social difficulties.
A worker or volunteer goes with the older person on errands or to appointments, and makes sure they get home safely afterwards.
Friendly visiting and security checks
Friendly visiting provides social contact and support to people who are isolated or cannot leave their homes.
These programs usually try to provide an older person with someone who visits or phones on a regular basis. This person should also be able to tell the senior where to call for other services.
Security checks to make sure a senior is safe are done by volunteers or by an automated telephone call. The senior identifies a person to be contacted if they do not respond to the check. This is usually a free service.
This includes seasonal cleaning, minor repairs, grass cutting, and snow removal. These services may be provided on a regular basis, from time to time, or in emergencies.
There is usually a fee for these services. But the fee is often based on what the person can afford.
Meals on Wheels
Seniors who are having difficulty preparing meals can have meals delivered to their homes on a regular basis Frozen meals may be available for weekends. There is usually a charge for the meals.
Caregiver support services provide counselling, training, and information to the family, relatives, or friends responsible for the care of an older person.
Respite care and vacation care
Volunteers may be available for a few hours each week to provide a break from caregiving to families looking after seniors on a regular basis. This is called respite care or caregiver relief.
Respite care for longer periods such as overnight, over a weekend, or for one or two weeks may be available in the senior's home or at a local long-term care home. There are fees for these services.
Emergency shelter and housing
Some communities have shelters or hostels for people who need emergency housing. There are also transition houses that provide temporary shelter for abused women.
Older people who need emergency housing may also need help with such things as dressing, eating, bathing, or toileting. They might not be able to get the help they need at a transition house or shelter.
But they may be able to get emergency housing or a crisis admission to a local long-term care home. You access this through the placement service within the local LHIN.
You can find contact information for your LHIN by calling 310-2222 or visiting www.healthcareathome.ca.
Some organizations help arrange alternative housing, for example, in Toronto there is Seniors and Caregivers Support Service and Housing Connections.
To contact Seniors and Caregivers Support Services, call Family Service Toronto at 416-595-9618 or visit their website at www.familyservicetoronto.org.
Housing Connections manages the waiting lists for most of the social housing in Toronto. Call 416-338-8888 or visit their website at www.housingconnections.ca.
You can call 211 or ask the LHIN in your area whether there are local services to help you find housing.
Victims of elder abuse whose finances have been managed by family members may need help to regain control of this. They might also need financial support if their income is not enough to meet their expenses.
An older person may be able to get help with financial issues from a lawyer or community legal clinic.
Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement
Old Age Security (OAS) pensions are available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents 65 years of age or older who meet Canadian residency requirements.
The maximum OAS benefit changes with the cost of living, and is currently about $600 each month. The amount does not depend on the person's assets or income. But if their net yearly income is over about $76,000, they have to pay back some or all of it.
For information about applying for OAS, contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY). Or visit their website at www.servicecanada.ca.
Seniors who have little or no income other than OAS might be eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Currently, the maximum GIS amount is about $900 each month for single people, and about $540 for people whose married or common-law spouses get a full OAS pension.
A senior who has been separated from their spouse for at least 3 months can apply to Service Canada to have their GIS based on single status.
Couples who are "involuntarily separated" do not have to wait 3 months. This includes couples who live apart because one or both of them is in a long-term care home. They can apply for GIS based on single statusimmediately. Service Canada has a special form for this.
For up-to-date information about CPP, OAS, and CPP rates, go to www.canada.ca and click on "Public pensions (CPP and OAS)".
Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS)
Seniors who get OAS and the GIS may also be eligible to receive a small pension from the Ontario Ministry of Finance. This pension is called the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS).
If a senior receives the GIS, in most cases Service Canada automatically sends an application for GAINS on their behalf to the Ministry of Finance. The amount they can get depends on their income from other sources.
Currently, the maximum amount is $83 each month. For more information about GAINS, call the Ministry of Finance at 1-866-668-8297. The TTY number is 1-800-263-7776.
If a senior does not get enough money for their own support and does not have support from a spouse, they can apply for parental support from an adult child.
The law says that an adult child must support their parents as much as they can based on their parents' needs, if their parents cared for or supported them.
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone, called an attorney, the power to act on behalf of another person.
There are different Powers of Attorney that relate to property and to personal care.
If someone thinks an attorney for property is not using the Power of Attorney properly, it is important that they get legal advice from a lawyer or community legal clinic.
Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) must investigate if it gets a report that someone who is not mentally capable is being harmed and not getting essential help.
If necessary, the OPGT can apply to the court to become the abused person's Temporary Guardian. The court will order this only if it decides that the person is not mentally capable.
Even if temporary guardianship is not necessary, the OPGT can still help the person get other services.
To report serious financial or personal abuse, contact the OPGT's Guardianship Investigations Unit at 416-327-6348 or 1-800-366-0335.
The OPGT's main office is in Toronto. The phone numbers there are 416-314-2800 or 1-800-366-0335.
For more information about OPGT's services or to contact the office in your area, look on the OPGT website at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt.