An 86-year-old man is physically and financially abused by his son.
A 58-year-old man previously charged with assault and uttering threats towards his elderly mother, moves into her basement and pressures her for money.
A woman, aged 79, with a long history of unreported physical and emotional violence by her 82-year-old husband, reports a recent incident of striking, shaking and threats by him.
These are but a few cases reported to Calgary's Elder Abuse Response Team (EART) in the past year.
Established in 2011, EART is a partnership between the Calgary Police Service, Carya (Formerly Calgary Family Services) and Kerby Centre. Kerby Centre provides direct referrals to EART while social workers from Carya and sworn members from the Calgary Police Service provide the front-line response to elder abuse. About 80 per cent of referrals come directly through police calls for service.
The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family completed a comprehensive evaluation of the fully funded EART pilot project between 2011 and 2014. The pilot project was funded by the Safe Communities Innovation Fund. Today, EART is fully operational.
The goal of the team is to reduce the victimization of older adults by providing a multidisciplinary continuum of services and supports. EART provides direct services to victims aged 65 and over who live in the City of Calgary, are in a trusting relationship with the abuser (spouses, family members, grandchildren, adult children, caregivers) and where it's suspected that a criminal offence has or may be perpetrated against the older adult by the abuser.
A criminal offence can include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, financial abuse/fraud or psychological abuse. For EART, positions of trust in elder abuse exclude unknown offender relationships.
Complex family dynamics
There are many complexities and family dynamics involved in these cases including older adults facing issues with isolation, immobility, cognitive ability, lack of social supports and dependency on others. The Calgary Police Service believes that a strong co-ordinated community response is required to increase awareness, and prevent and respond to these crimes.
During the pilot project, data was collected on the types of abuse reported at intake. Verbal abuse was the most common followed by financial abuse and emotional abuse. More than two-thirds of the older adult victims lived with their alleged abuser and the most common alleged abusers were adult children followed by spouses or partners.
EART investigates files that have a criminal component. The team consists of two police officers working in tandem with two social workers, and an additional two police officers who mainly investigate financial files that don't require social work expertise or resources. If the file doesn't meet the criminal threshold, then it's referred to community partners for follow-up, support and resources.
The team sees a broad range of cases involving different forms of elder abuse, sometimes in combination.
Financial abuse: In February 2015, the team investigated a file involving a 62-year-old man who suffered from post-polio health challenges and a trusted friend, who was 63. The victim was confined to a wheelchair and the friend offered to run errands for him. He gave his friend permission to use his credit and debit cards for groceries and to pay for gas in exchange for running the errands but not to make any other purchases. He noticed that several unauthorized transactions on the credit and debit cards were being made totalling more than $28,000.
The investigation led to production orders for financial records, videos and stills of the transactions and a criminal charge of theft over $5,000. EART liaised with Homecare and Transition Services to expedite moving the victim to a care facility, met with the family to assist with Power of Attorney applications, and secured the victims remaining funds. The accused pled guilty during court proceedings and received a conditional sentence order.
Physical and financial abuse: In June 2015, EART investigated the case of an 86-year-old man being physically and financially abused by his son. Members of the team transported the victim to a shelter and obtained an emergency protection order.
As the son was still at large, the team put out warrants for his arrest. The son broke back into the home, breaching the emergency protection order, and assaulted his father again, this time requiring the father to be hospitalized. EART assisted with obtaining a capacity assessment for the victim by liaising with physicians at the hospital.
As there was no one suitable or willing to take on the guardianship of the victim, EART made a referral to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee who took over his guardianship.
Financial abuse: In August 2015, the team learned of a 90-year-old man being financially abused by a 50-year-old trusted friend where over $160,000 had been spent by the suspect without the victim's knowledge or consent. This investigation involved authoring and being granted several production orders, interviewing numerous people, and consulting with Crown. This investigation is ongoing.
Financial abuse: In September 2015, EART investigated a 34-year-old tenant who reportedly stole cheques from his elderly landlord. The tenant was charged with uttering a forged document and received conditions of no contact — direct or indirect — with the landlord. EART continued to monitor the file and a routine check on the landlord's welfare located the accused hiding in a storage space.
EART arrested and charged the offender with two counts of breaching a probation order. The team helped the 74-year-old with a social admission to hospital and advocated for housing, cognitive assessments and family education regarding a Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney. The intervention resulted in the older adult being able to thrive in a supportive environment and return home to live safely in the community.
Physical and financial abuse: In the same month, EART investigated a file involving a 79-year-old woman and her son. The son, 58, was previously charged with assault and uttering threats toward her. Shortly after, the victim's daughter contacted the team to inform them that the son was living in the mother's basement, contrary to his recognizance, and was pressuring her for money. EART arrested the son for breach of his bond and removed another unwanted person from the basement at the request of the mother. She currently lives in a healthy, abuse-free environment supported by family and friends.
Physical and psychological abuse: EART investigated a domestic abuse file involving an 85-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife. There was a long history of unreported physical and emotional domestic violence and a recent incident disclosed to police of the offender striking, shaking and threatening the victim.
An accusatory interview resulted in admissions of guilt and two criminal charges. The elder abuse team continued to support the victim as she moved from a shelter to government-subsidized seniors housing where she's currently living — happy and free from domestic violence.
With an estimated 9,000 older adults affected by elder abuse in Calgary each year, EART is much needed.
Aside from investigating these serious crimes, the team participates in outreach events with their community partners to help build awareness of elder abuse, teach seniors how to protect themselves against maltreatment and fraud, and provide information about community resources.