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Seniors advocate calls for reporting line for abuse and neglect amid rising reports

49 per cent increase in reports of abuse, neglect and self-neglect over past 3 to 5 years
Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie is photographed at her office in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, December 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

British Columbia’s seniors advocate is calling for a provincewide approach for reporting seniors abuse amid complaints that are “significantly rising.”

Isobel Mackenzie says there is a clear five-year pattern of increasing reports of seniors abuse and neglect, but the fragmented reporting system suggests the problem could be more widespread.

Mackenzie released a report today that says over the past three to five years, there has been a 49 per cent increase in reports of abuse, neglect and self-neglect to designated agencies.

It says complaints to RCMP of violent crime rose 69 per cent, while reports to Vancouver police of physical abuse was up 87 per cent and financial abuse up by 49 per cent.

Among her recommendations, Mackenzie says a review of the Adult Guardianship Act should consider the need to legally report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults, similar to an existing legal requirement to report child abuse.

It also calls for the implementation of a central contact with one phone number to call about concerns, to be managed by professionals trained in adult protection.

The fragmented reporting system means data is unreliable and it’s difficult to assess patterns, identify gaps, make improvements and measure progress, the report says.

“The challenge is that the system is not reliably effective and many vulnerable seniors may be falling through the cracks,” it says.

The Adult Guardianship Act is largely responsible for protecting vulnerable seniors beyond the police protection offered under the Criminal Code.

The report says when the legislation was introduced 20 years ago, there were no provincial guidelines or standards followed, leaving a patchwork of implementation across health authorities and other organizations.

It recommends that provincial standards and front-line training be developed, that there be a provincewide public awareness campaign and consistent data collection, and that methods and definitions be developed to monitor cases.

—The Canadian Press

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