Elder abuse is drastically underreported. And this is not new.
Only one in 20 elderly abuses are reported, according to new data released by Toronto Police.
“The number doesn’t surprise me — the elderly are vulnerable,” says I.D. Folami, advanced practice registered nurse.
In 46 per cent of the cases, the perpetrator of the crime is a child.
Folami says empowering the elderly comes with education on access to the external world.
“Sometimes the person doesn’t know anything past their child, who sometimes ends up being the abuser,” Folami says. “That’s all they know, and it’s a difficult situation to report on someone you depend upon.”
The Seniors Aid Society reports that 59 per cent of elderly abuse is neglect.
Folami explains that neglect is both active and passive.
Active neglect is intentionally leaving the elderly alone, who may not be able to perform simple actions such as getting dressed. Passive neglect is genuinely not having time, because of work for example.”
Folami explains that such factors can lead to depression.
“It’s a concern now because in the past there was an assumption that when you get older your children would take care of you. Technology is making physical access more unlikely — no one sees each other to notice what is wrong with an elderly family member.”
For Evelyn Vinluan, 68, who worked as a housekeeper in a nursing home for 18 years, such cases break her heart.
Having observed many families and situations Vinluan recalls how some children treat their parents.
“They stay five minutes and leave. I’ve seen so many elderly crying — yearning for their kids,” she said. “Some don’t even visit and [the elderly] wait for them to come. That’s neglect and it’s emotional abuse too.”
It’s something that Vinluan still can’t fathom, even after almost two decades of witnessing countless cases.
“I don’t understand the neglect,” Vinluan said. “We don’t have this sort of thing in my culture. Back at home, we bring parents into the home.”
Vinluan brought her parents, both of whom were over 65 and have since died, to Canada in 1994.
She balanced working full time and taking care of her elderly parents.
“When my mom was in the hospital, I worked and went to stay with her until midnight. When she came home we still cooked together.”
After some time off, Vinluan, who has her diploma, plans to find work as a personal support worker.
For Folami, being proactive in reporting abuse is essential.
“The question is whether we as a community are sensitive to what we see, what we read and what we take action to,” Folami said. “If you don’t report it, you are enabling it.”