The Alberta government is providing $750,000 over two years to the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council (AEAAC) to develop community responses against elder abuse.

With these funds, the council will provide one-time funding to the province’s 31 eligible coordinated community responses (CCRs).

AEAAC  started as a group of service providers who see elder abuse as a community issue, said the council’s chair Shantel Ottenbreit.

“They wanted to come together to share what was happening, and to understand and connect around resources and how they could address it,” she said. “It’s grown into a more formalized council that supports the work  being done in communities.”

AEAAC provides training and education opportunities, as well as community presentations to service providers and older adults.

Elder abuse is any action or inaction, by self or others, which jeopardizes the health or well-being of a senior.

“We’ve been working with the Alberta government to support the development of coordinated community responses,” Ottenbreit said. “No one agency can actually address elder abuse. So we need a range of services. And our communities know best what works in their area.”

A Government of Alberta news release says that with the announced funding, AEAAC will design and deliver a funding program to eligible CCRs. The goals are to improve seniors’ access to help navigating available supports; explore best practices for data collection; increase regional collaboration between CCRs; and ensure the sustainability of CCR programs and services  

Funding will also enable the council to provide enhanced elder abuse awareness training for service providers and responders.

Ottenbreit said it’s important to develop community resources.

“The reason we’ve connected it to those communities that have established coordinated community responses is because it’s really difficult for a person to come forward and to identify as experiencing elder abuse, and to actually want to seek help as well,” she said. 

“It’s really difficult to be able to get them connected into the community, which becomes that safeguard when we look at elder abuse.”

She said perpetrators will often escalate their abuse through social isolation, which is an even bigger problem during the pandemic. 

“So the more that we can get a person connected into the community, the more eyes are on the situation, and the more people who are aware of what’s going on for the older adult, the more likely there’s those protective factors around them,” she said. 

Ottenbreit said the council’s focus will be on case management. “So funding for a case manager in those communities to be able to actually meet with older adults, go through a bit of an assessment process, help them to navigate the system, as well as some safety planning and talking to them about the different tools they can have to keep them safe.”

According to Alberta’s seniors and housing minister Josephine Pon, “Elder abuse is a complex issue that requires community solutions. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a stronger response to prevent and address elder abuse. With the help of [AEAAC], these funds will get right to the organizations and service providers who are leading this important work in their communities.”

The government said it will also work with stakeholders and the public to establish a consistent definition of elder abuse, explore more formalized data collection and information-sharing practices, and improve coordination across programs and service. 

“Consideration is also being given to the potential role of provincial elder abuse legislation,” the news release reads. “Alberta’s government continues to work closely with the federal government to support priorities related to elder abuse nationally.”