Have you ever thought twice about elder abuse?
We, as third year UBCO nursing students, hadn’t until we began our community project with instructor Christine Balfour (RN, BcSN, MA) .
Over the past two months, we have been working with the Lake Country Health Planning Society on a project funded by the Government of Canada through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.
As part of the Lake Country CARES (Community Actions and Response to Elder Abuses) project, we researched elder abuse in order to have a better understanding of this topic. Elder abuse is defined by the British Columbia Ministry of Justice as “any action or inaction by any person that causes harm or risk of harm to an older person.”
It can include emotional, financial, physical, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect or abandonment. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (2012) states that of the five million Canadians over the age of 65, around 200,000 to 500,000 will be victims of elder abuse. These statistics, along with others, showed us the importance of promoting awareness.
A highlight of our project has been helping at focus groups throughout Lake Country. We really didn’t know what to expect, as we had never been a part of a focus group, never mind help run one. On our way to the event we were feeling nervous about how the night would go; would there be any interest? Would people come? Would anybody say anything or would it be awkwardly silent?
Despite our worries, the focus group environment quickly became friendly and it turned into a safe place to share opinions and thoughts. People of different ages came, adding to the richness of the conversation. A common theme throughout the focus groups has been how different generations perceive abuse and respond to it. Today, it seems that it is more acceptable to ask for help and take a stand, whereas years ago it was less common to share personal stories and talk about abuse.
After the four focus groups, we will have a better idea of what the Lake Country community knows about elder abuse as well as how we can identify and improve resources in the community. Continuing on, the plan is to connect with the youth at the local secondary school to talk about elder abuse awareness and the connection it has to bullying. Ultimately, our plan is to work with the Lake Country Health Planning Society to create an elder abuse tool kit, which will act as a resource for community members. Our hope is that the community will continue to have conversations about elder abuse and that awareness will continue grow.
Jasmine Worsfold, Julianne Siewert and Kirsten Potts are third year UBCO nursing students.