Sixty year-old Gloria Clark was charged with abuse and neglect in respect of her 98 year-old mother, Anne Copeland, who died shortly after Emergency Services attended at their home.
When police arrived they discovered a filthy, noxious environment and the elderly Mrs. Copeman near death in her bed. In the house were seven dogs and several cats with feces and urine found throughout the home. The woman’s bedroom was cold and a window was open in an attempt to mask the smell of rotting flesh wounds.
Also present in the home was a parrot who chattered “help me, help me” and then laughed with great gusto. Officers advised the media they had never seen such a serious case of elder abuse and were confident the parrot would be their star witness.
How prevalent is elder abuse and what is being done about it? A recent Government of Canada survey conducted in Quebec revealed that between four and ten per cent of Canada’s senior population have suffered abuse or neglect, including untreated depression. Twelve per cent of Quebecers who responded to the survey indicated they had personally sought out information about elder abuse and 22% said they suspected elder abuse in their family situations.
Most elder abuse, however, is never discovered or investigated because of the vulnerability of the victims involved. Many seniors are unaware that abuse and neglect may be a criminal offence and if they are aware, they do not report it due to fear or shame. Another factor is the functional illiteracy of many Canadian seniors.
It is imperative that public education be implemented and abuse of elders by their offspring be treated like any other domestic violence case, with a zero tolerance policy. Social workers and others need to understand elder abuse is much more than a civil matter and serious criminal consequences are necessary to protect our mothers, fathers and grandparents.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang