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May 29, 2008
For immediate release

Caregiver Stress and Supports theme for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2008 in Prince Edward Island

Social Services and Seniors

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June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Prince Edward Island and around the world. Locally, activities are planned to raise awareness about abuse of older adults with a focus on caregiver stress and supports.

“Usually the role of caregiver is an add-on to the many other roles individuals have,” said Richard Savidant, co-chair of the PEI World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Committee. “Seldom are people prepared for the tasks involved. This workshop is an opportunity to talk about caregiver stress, how caregivers can care for themselves and where to find supports.”

On June 12, a free workshop will be hosted for family members, seniors, service providers and community members on how to recognize caregiver stress, how to reduce stress and where to find the supports caregivers and loved ones need. The event will take place at the St. Eleanors Community Centre, 1 West Drive, Summerside from 10 a.m. to noon. The panel of experts includes Jackie Doran MacLeod, Adult Protection Consultant, Department of Health; Claudette Cramm, Nurse Coordinator, Summerset Manor; Debye MacDonald-Connolly, Seniors Mental Health Consultant, Department of Health; Nancy Hashie, family caregiver and moderator Faye Martin, Director of the PEI Seniors’ Secretariat.

“Many baby boomers are either caregivers now to aging parents or can expect to be caregivers in the future,” said Casey McGannon, co-chair of the PEI World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Committee. “It pays to learn about and plan for caregiving services and supports that may be needed in the future.”

Other activities to-date include a speaking tour of Rotary clubs, displays at community events including the annual meeting, PEI Seniors' Federation annual meeting and the West Prince Seniors Expo. Information kits will also be sent all Prince Edward Island churches with a request that World Elder Abuse Awareness Day be recognized as part of worship on Sunday, June 15.

According to the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, abuse of older adults is any action that harms an older person or jeopardizes the person’s health or welfare. Abuse can be physical (e.g. hitting), emotional, verbal (e.g. name calling), financial (e.g. taking money or property), sexual and denial of civil and human rights. Some types of abuse of older adults involve violation of their rights. The PEI Department of Health reports that there were 133 referrals to adult protection services last year; 66 per cent were with respect to seniors, aged 65 or older.

The PEI World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Committee was spearheaded by the PEI Seniors Secretariat in 2006 and the PEI representative of the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

For more information on abuse of older persons, visit and click on the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day logo. If you have questions or wish to book a presentation for a community organization on abuse of older persons, financial abuse and fraud or caregiver stress and supports, please contact the PEI Seniors’ Secretariat at (902) 569-0588 or send an e-mail to

BACKGROUNDER: Explaining Abuse of Older Adults

In the past, the most popular explanation for abuse of older adults was that it was provoked by stress on the person providing long-term care for the older adult. Recent research shows that the dynamics between dependent individuals and their caregivers are much more complex.

The most common explanations of abuse of older adults focus on the following:

• A web of dependent relationships – physical, emotional and financial, between the victim and abuser. Research findings are inconsistent. Not all dependent seniors are abused. Some studies even suggest that abusers are more likely than non-abusers to be dependent on their victims.

• Traits of the abusive caregiver. An impressive amount of research has linked mental health problems and social characteristics of caregivers to abuse. One example is that abusers are more likely than non-abusers to have alcohol or other substance abuse problems.

• Situational stress. Caregiver stress related to long-term care of an older adult sometimes leads to abuse. The failure of stress-reducing interventions (e.g., home care assistance, respite care) to reduce abuse has led to less emphasis on the singular importance of caregiver stress.

• Transgenerational family violence – children from a long history of family violence “getting back at” a parent. The limited research on this theory suggests that it explains child abuse much more than senior abuse.

• Social isolation. Isolation has not been established as a cause of abuse, but abused older adults are more likely to have fewer contacts with friends and family members than are non-abused older adults.

• Pervasive societal power imbalances. Individual experience is inseparably linked to social forces and institutional practices that may support power imbalances in families (e.g., ageism or sexism).

Source: National Clearing House on Family Violence, Public Health Agency of Canada website

Media Contact: Verna Lynne Weeks
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