Adult abuse & neglect
Abuse is the deliberate mistreatment of an adult that causes physical, mental or emotional harm, or damage to their property or their assets. There are different types of abuse, and it can happen to anyone, at any age, in any culture, no matter a person’s income or religion. Together, we can reduce adult and elder abuse for British Columbians.
You can also reach out to:
- Local police, to report a crime committed against you or if you’re concerned about someone you know: Many types of adult abuse or neglect are crimes under the Criminal Code of Canada.
- Interior Health’s designated agency, to report abuse, neglect and self-neglect of vulnerable adults: Our designated agency responders investigate reports. Contact a designated agency responder in your community through our webform or call 1-844-870-4754 (toll-free).
- The Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C., to report financial abuse of vulnerable adults in the community: Assessment and Investigation Services takes referrals and reviews allegations to determine if substitute decision-making authority is required.
The identity of a person who makes a report to a designated agency must remain confidential.
In British Columbia, designated agencies have the authority and responsibility to receive and act on reports of abuse, neglect or self-neglect of vulnerable adults who are unable to seek support and assistance on their own due to restraint, physical handicap, illness, disease, injury or any other condition that affects the adult’s ability to make decisions.
All health authorities in British Columbia and Community Living BC are designated agencies.
Signs of abuse
Physical abuse is a deliberate act of violence, rough treatment or use of physical force against an adult.
Signs and symptoms of physical abuse:
- Grip marks
- Black eyes
- Unusual area of injury
Signs not so easy to identify:
- Not participating in usual activities or social contact
Adults are neglected when a caregiver does not provide the basic daily living needs of an adult dependent upon them for things such as food, clothing, shelter, bathing, medication, health care and doctor visits. This causes dependent adults physical, mental or emotional harm.
Self-neglect happens when an adult can no longer take care of their own basic needs to the point that causes the person physical, mental, or emotional harm, or significant loss of their assets.
Signs and symptoms of neglect and self-neglect:
- Unusual weight loss
- Not getting enough fluids
- Unsuitable clothing
- Under-use or over-use of medication
- Skin sores
- Being dirty or unbathed
- Not having needed equipment such as canes and walkers
Adult Guardianship Law
In British Columbia, Adult Guardianship Legislation refers to the provincial laws that give every adult (19 years of age or older) a choice about how decisions can or will be made “by” or “for” them. This includes decisions related to: health care, personal care, admission to or continued residence in a care facility, financial, and legal and financial matters.
Additionally, the Adult Guardianship Act ensures that vulnerable adults have the right to support, assistance or adult guardianship protection as a result of adult abuse or neglect.
- Confirm the right of adults to self-determination, including the right to refuse health care on moral, religious or other grounds
- Provide an opportunity for adults to decide in advance who will make decisions on their behalf should they become incapable of making decisions about health, personal care, financial and legal matters in the future
- Ensure there are clear rules and guidelines for people making health-care decisions and other substitute decisions for others
- Reinforce the role of family and friends in providing adults with support and substitute decision-making
- Address the issues of abuse, neglect and self-neglect of adults who cannot seek help on their own
- Provide a modernized guardianship system for adults who did not plan in advance for their incapacity and/or protect adults when the plans fail to provide the necessary safeguards against misuse
Resources & information
The Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL) is a toll-free telephone line that is staffed seven days a week (excluding holidays) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PST on weekends. SAIL is a safe place for older adults to talk to someone about situations where they feel they are being abused or mistreated.
Community response networks (CRNs) promote safe communities, through the development of community networks where individuals and private and public sector organizations can participate in activities to prevent abuse, neglect and self-neglect of adults.
• Search for CRNs by health authority
• Learn more about CRNs
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