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Elder law protects Ontario seniors from abuse

Police in Ontario say that up to 10 per cent of seniors in the province are abused by family members or caretakers. The actual number is estimated at between 40,000 and 200,000. The wide-ranging figure may be explained by the fact that many seniors do not report their mistreatment. Many may not realize that they have options for seeking protection through elder law services.

The most frequent type of abuse that seniors suffer is neglect. This may occur when an elderly person is not fed, cleaned, or given the proper medication or fluids. Illness may follow. More than half of the reported elder abuse cases involve neglect. Other types of elder abuse include physical mistreatment, financial manipulation (including predatory marriages) and emotional bullying. Only one in 20 victims asks for help.

Many elders may not even realize that the treatment they endure is abusive, or they may not be able to admit to themselves that someone is abusing them. One explanation for this may be because over 40 percent of the abusers are thought to be the adult children of the victim. One overriding reason for the reluctance to report the abuse is that victims often fear they will have nowhere to go. They may see little choice than to stay in an unhealthy situation rather than to be rendered homeless.

Ontario has shelters for abused seniors, and advocacy groups are fundraising to build more. Meanwhile, those who are neglected, abused or exploited - or family members who suspect such mistreatment - have legal recourse. An elder law professional can offer advice and guidance to help one determine the best course of action.

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