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By Rochella Vassell
The Elder Abuse Ontario Central West Conference took place on September 23, 2016. It welcomed 100 attendees and featured an excellent line-up of speakers. 

  • Linda Elliott, Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG)
  • Joslyn Gaston, Mental Health Court Coordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
  • John Hunt, Guelph Police Service
  • Birgit Niggebaum Pervis, Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis
  • Liz Kent, Executive Director, Victim Services of Guelph
  • Penny Leach, Manager, Wellington-Dufferin County Victim Witness Assistance Program
  • Taren Hardacre, Seniors at Risk Coordinator, CMHA
  • Jane McKinnon, Manager, Specialized Geriatric Services, CMHA 
  • Farial Ali, Coordinator, Safe Bed Program Peel 
  • Sian Lockwood, Systems Coordinator, Alzheimer Society, Waterloo-Wellington 
  • Andrea Ninacs, Staff Sergeant, Guelph Police Service
  • Jodi Napper-Campbell, Administrator with the Avalon care Centre

 Featured Topics:  

  • The role of the Crown in Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence 
  • Supporting older adults through the mental health court system who have cognitive impairment or mental health issues
  • The role of law enforcement in responding to elder abuse and domestic violence
  • Supporting older adults through the social services system
  • Safe beds in Peel, Guelph and Dufferin
  • The new Safe Pathways program in Guelph

Rochella Vassell, EAO Central West Consultant, presented some statistics on Domestic violence in older adults (from Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2013, Statistics Canada) to set the stage on the prevalence and complexity of the intersectionality of Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse:

  • Rates of family violence are generally highest among younger seniors and gradually decline with age.

  • The rate of family violence affecting senior women (62.7 per 100,000) was higher (+26%) than the rate for senior men (49.7 per 100,000).

  • Nearly 8,900 seniors (173.9 victims per 100,000) were the victims of a violent crime.

  • The accused are commonly grown children (about 43%); followed by spouses (28%)

Forms of D.V.: Peter Jaffe, Marcie Campbell, Katherine Reif & Brianna O’Neil, Western University, Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children

  • Long term spouses and intimate partners
    • DV Grown Old
  • New Relationship
  • “Reverse” Domestic Violence
  • Other family members and trusted others
  •  Organic based violence
    • Often confused with DV
    • Person cannot control behavior
    • Non-targeted violence

 1- Mental health court and the Crown’s role
with Linda Elliott, Assistant Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General
Joslyn Gaston, Mental Health Court Coordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association

Key questions:
Is there a reasonable prospect of conviction?
Is prosecution in the public interest?
Both speakers used a case scenario of an accused elderly man with dementia and his spouse, the elderly victim/caregiver. They discussed their role in promoting the victim’s safety and the public’s safety while ensuring that the accused had a fair trial and access to supports. Discussion ensued about law enforcement and how determining “intent” is problematic.

2- The role of law enforcement in responding to elder abuse and domestic violence
John Hunt, Guelph Police
John discussed his role as a senior investigator and a case where an adult son was financially abusing his mother and how he connected with the senior at risk coordinator and the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.
Birgit Niggebaum-Purvis, Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis
Birgit provided some insight into her role supporting victims with safety plans, respecting their wishes as well as providing a support group for older women called “Happy Hopefuls”. Birgit has supported older men to access other supports and discussed supporting older women to apply for priority housing.
Liz Kent, Victim Services of Guelph
Penny Leach, Victim Witness Assistance Program Wellington-Dufferin County,
Penny outlined that  many older adult victims do sustain serious injuries in her practice. The VWAP offers safety planning and works with the Crown to provide information to the Crown and to the victim. Penny outlined that while there are cases where the accused is impaired, there are many cases when the accused is not impaired and they need to support the victim to access supports and remain safe. VWAP respects the rights of all victims and their choices.
Taren Hardacre, Seniors at Risk Coordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo/Wellington/Dufferin
Taren discussed her role in consultation as well as education for Power of Attorneys and Substitute Decision Makers on their roles. Taren sees a lot of neglect and lack of education for family caregivers and service providers in understanding the role of a POA.

3- Safe Bed Programs in Dufferin, Guelph, and Peel
with Jane McKinnon
, Manager of Special Geriatric Services, CMHA Waterloo Wellington Dufferin
Farial Ali, Coordinator of the safe bed program in Peel, CFSPD
Jodi Napper-Campbell, Administrator, Avalon Care Centre
All 3 speakers discussed the eligibility and process to access a safe bed in their region, funding and length of stay.

4- Safe Pathways Program in Guelph
with Sian Lockwood
, Systems Coordinator, Alzheimer Society Waterloo-Wellington
Andrea Ninacs, Staff Sergeant, Guelph Police Service
Taren Hardacre, Seniors at Risk Coordinator, Canadian Mental Health Association

This new and innovative program,  that supports persons with dementia who are the involved in the judicial system. Safe Pathways is working to reduce the likelihood that persons with dementia will enter the criminal justice system due to behaviours that may cause harm and result in a criminal offense.
The program is funded by the Vital and Safer Communities Grant with the Ministry of Corrections and Community Safety.




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