In March 2000, the Quebec Human Rights Commission held public hearings into mistreatment of the aged in privately-run residences and public long-term hospitals. The province’s nurses have reported that old people in nursing homes are frequently tied to their beds, intimidated, threatened, physically and sexually abused and ignored.
Elder abuse and the problem of unregulated nursing homes are also issues in Ontario. An Elder Abuse Round Table has been formed to devise a comprehensive provincial plan to combat elder abuse. It met for the first time in December 1999. The Round Table includes 20 influential seniors and opinion leaders representing many sectors where elder abuse can occur. The group will advise government on a multifaceted strategy which will focus on training professionals and front-line workers, increasing public awareness and improving co-ordination of services within the community.
Not surprisingly, as with other social problems facing the elderly, societal attitudes have been blamed for elder abuse. One expert has eloquently described the situation and the steps that are needed to address it:
Elder abuse occurs across Ontario, in large part, because ageism exists: the entrenched perception that all those over 65 are frail, dependent and non-contributing…
A comprehensive public education program needs to be undertaken by government to deal with the root causes of elder abuse in its various forms and address the negative stereotypes that legitimize elder abuse.
Until the elderly are fully recognized as individuals with the same human needs and rights as other citizens, abuse of the elderly will prevail – whether it takes place in the home, the community, or institutions.