IH urges for awareness of adult abuse and neglect

IH urges for awareness of adult abuse and neglect

Social workers and designated responders Brittany Kennedy and Ryan Becker work with Interior Health on detecting and treating adult abuse and neglect. (Submitted photo)

By Vanessa Broadbent

Oliver Chronicle

As holiday season approaches so does the amount of time people spend with their elderly relatives, and Interior Health is urging the public to be aware of adult abuse and neglect among their loved ones.

Adult abuse can come in many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or financial, said Brett Butchart, Interior Health’s Knowledge Facilitator for Vulnerable and Incapable Adults.

Neglect, including self-neglect, is when an adult doesn’t have access to the necessities of life: shelter, access to food, water, clothing and medical attention.

Butchart said that health authorities across the province, including Interior Health, have a legislative responsibility to investigate reports of abuse and neglect.

The provincial Adult Guardianship Legislation references adults’ right to have a choice in decisions that are made by them, or for them.

As a result, Interior Health is one of many health authorities across B.C. launching a new internal reporting system called Re:act that will track trends and data when reports are made.

“Then our staff can follow up and collect this data,” Butchart said.

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Although data on which forms of adult abuse are most common are not available yet, Butchart expects to see financial abuse close to the top of the list, as well as self-neglect.

“If you think about the Okanagan, we get a lot of people that come here to retire,” he said. “Our senior population tend to be some of our more vulnerable adults. This is also a community where people move here from other areas, so they’re isolated and that can be a risk factor too.”

Interior Health’s phone line for reporting adult abuse and neglect has been operational for two years, Butchart said, but he’s hoping that the launch of Re:act will raise awareness and inspire more people to report.

Staff answer the calls and take information which they share with a designated responder, a clinician trained to conduct investigations and record findings in accordance with legislation, that then goes and interviews the adult.

“The legislation is not just about safety and protection; it’s about balancing and considering what the adult’s wishes and rights are,” Butchart said. “They would work with the adult regarding that.”

Butchart says the best way for anyone noticing abuse to report it is by calling Interior Health at 1-844-870-4754 or emailing ihadultguardianship@interiorhealth.ca. All reports are confidential.