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This year for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), Circle of Care is shining a light on different types of elder abuse by sharing real stories from our social work team. Their stories are prime examples of the importance of staying proactive and aware of elder abuse to ensure a loved one’s final years are safe, healthy, and peaceful.

Helping through the discovery of a long history of financial abuse

“The daughter of an older couple disclosed to me that she and her brother had discovered a long history of financial abuse from another brother of theirs.

By the time she and her brother had caught on, the extent of the financial abuse was devastating for the parents. The parents were no longer able to afford to privately hire additional home supports to assist with the mom’s physical health decline and dad’s progressive dementia. The parents did not want to pursue legal action to try to recuperate the loss.

I was able to help the family with setting up a Power of Attorney for Property for the mom. This ensured that this son would no longer have access to the parents’ finances. After that, the family had low contact with the son and were so relieved that they no longer had to worry about the state of mom and dad’s finances and were able to focus on what mattered most to them – spending quality time with each other.” – Cathy Tan

Providing support through an abusive financial situation

“One of the clients I helped had come to Canada from Russia to reunite with her son. She had a good and independent life in Russia, owned a house, and was receiving a pension that was enough for her to have everything she needed. The client’s son asked his mother to come to Canada, promising a better life together. He forced his mother to sell her property in Russia and bring the money to buy a house in Canada. She was very happy to reunite with her beloved son and to help him to buy a house together.

She was not aware that her name was not on the title of the property and her son was the only owner of the house. Being sponsored and not having her own money, this client was dependent on her son for 10 years. As soon as she became eligible for financial benefits, her son forced her to get out.

As she had a language barrier and could not find a rental apartment on her own, she felt lost, betrayed and scared. She called Circle of Care asking for help. As a result of the connection to a Social Worker, she found an affordable apartment, got connected to language specific programs, became aware of community resources and started to fill more comfortable managing her finances.

She no longer communicates with her son and is able to manage with help of different organizations she is connected to.” – Natalie Zabolotsky

Supportive counselling in times of emotional and mental abuse

“I assisted a client with supportive counselling as she was going through emotional and mental abuse following the death of her husband. Her two daughters were fighting over money and using manipulation as a tactic that left my client torn between the two of them.

Prior to her husband’s death, the couple had made financial decisions together regarding their estate based on lifelong relationships and supports from their daughters. Although this client felt comfortable with the decisions she had made as a couple, she was put in a position where she was made to feel guilty and in the wrong. Her health was deteriorating and aside from physical medical conditions, she became depressed and her mental health severely worsened.

I worked with her over several months, during which time her daughters tried persuading her each in their direction. They each hired lawyers, and tried to persuade her to change her Power of Attorney and Will.

Each week that we met, this client felt that one of her daughters was right and the next week, that the other was right. She felt that she was disappointing both of her daughters and felt guilty.

Through our weekly conversations, I helped counsel her and helped her to understand that she had agency in the situation, and her daughters’ feud was not her fault. Eventually the client accepted her daughters would always be unsatisfied no matter what decision will be made. She asked for them to leave her out of their affairs and to let her live her last few years peacefully.

As part of my role, her daughters also connected with me and each shared with their concern about their mother being manipulated by their sister. As it’s not my place to take sides, I asked them to respect their mother’s wishes.

Unfortunately, my client was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer shortly after and passed away within weeks. She died within one year of her husband and in the middle of a war between her only daughters, leaving them both orphaned within one year, something that they never imagined would happen.” – Elinor Gal

Assisting with safety against physical and emotional abuse

“I received a new client referral, and in the notes there was physical and emotional abuse indication. It also indicated not to share any client information with the daughter or son-in-law. But when I called to introduce myself and schedule the initial assessment, the client called her daughter to be a part of the call. The client lives with her daughter, son-in-law and their children in a multi-generational home.

During the actual initial assessment, the client decided she wanted to speak to me on her own. She opened up about the way she was living. She admitted to me that her relationship with her son-in-law had always been tense, but since the beginning of the pandemic, with the daughter and son in law working from home, the situation had worsened.

The client shared a scenario of an emotional and verbal abuse incident that had scared her enough to diminish contact with the son-in-law. Since that point, she had mostly been keeping to herself in her room or helping with house duties. The escalated situation had hurt the client’s relationship with her daughter too, who seemed to be supporting her husband.

I worked with the client on a Safety Plan in case the situation got worse. I am currently working on finding a safe housing option for this client to live on her own freely and without worries.” – Olga Friedman

These are just some of the stories of cases that our social workers have assisted with over the last year. Let’s continue to work together so we can ensure all of our older adults are safe and happy by staying actively aware of situations indicating elder abuse.

For more information and resources around elder abuse, visit www.elderabuseontario.com. To speak with a Circle of Care social worker specially trained in handling elder abuse cases or if you suspect a Circle of Care client may be the victim of elder abuse, call 416-635-2860.