Seniors abuse program receives cash infusion

$1 million boost to seniors' abuse protection programs

The B.C. government has announced a $1 million boost to its seniors’ abuse protection programs, including extending the hours for a hotline to report suspicions of abuse or neglect.

The bulk of the funding is to allow the Vancouver-based Seniors Abuse and Information Line to extend its hours to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. It offers information, advice and emotional support for seniors and their friends and relatives who suspect elderly people are being abused or taken advantage of.

The number is 604-437-1940 in Metro Vancouver and toll-free province-wide at 1-866-437-1940.

Susan Brice, a volunteer with the seniors’ support organization Silver Threads, said members see cases of abuse frequently.

“It’s the elderly woman who comes to her craft class with unexplained bruises,” Brice said. “It’s the couple who lose thousands of dollars through a telemarketing scam. And it’s the quiet-speaking gentleman, who while living with family, appears neglected and uncared for.”

Ralph Sultan, minister of state for seniors, said he has encountered abuse and exploitation of seniors in his own family, and it comes up frequently as he has traveled B.C. asking seniors and their caregivers what they need from government.

In an interview, Sultan acknowledged that the funding is a modest effort to bolster volunteer efforts.

“It is a beginning step, but it also reflects the fact that this problem can not be solved top-down,” Sultan said. “It will have to be solved bottom-up by mobilizing many different organizations around the province.”

The B.C. government also provided $1.4 million last year to the B.C. Association of Community Response Networks, for prevention and education to reduce elder abuse and neglect.

Katrine Conroy, NDP critic for seniors, said she agrees with extra support for the information line, which is supported by lawyers and other experts to help seniors find help.

“Anything that’s done to eliminate elder abuse is a good thing,” Conroy said.

“The community resource networks are really good organizations.”

She added that the government’s proposed Seniors’ Advocate is inadequate, because it is not an independent office and won’t deal with individual cases.

Sultan said the advocate is to help develop policies to protect seniors, and a federal study being funded partly by the program will provide the information needed to to that.