VCH Richmond Social Workers from across the Community of Care gathered — and are wearing purple — to mark and support World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, today, June 15.

Social Workers raise awareness of elder abuse

Sometimes neglect isn’t intentional.

In fact, that’s the situation that Richmond Social Work practice lead Lia Weekes encountered when a legally blind, hard-of-hearing 92 year old patient presented some time ago to the ED with an infection.

“This patient was visibly unkempt and hadn’t bathed in a very long time. The patient’s teeth were decayed and I couldn’t determine when he had last eaten,” Weekes recalled. “It turned out that the patient was accompanied to the ED by his son and they, in fact, lived together.”

Through more talking and listening, Weekes learned that the 92 year old had previously been the caregiver to his son until his own health deteriorated. “This turned out not to be a case of intentional neglect, but it was a case where caregiving roles had changed, and the son was not able to meet his father’s care needs,” Weekes said.

Designated Responders

As a Social Worker in a Designated Responder role, Weekes investigated the situation thoroughly to determine level of risk and vulnerability for the patient and caregiver.

“I learned from these two people that they had to remain together because it’s all they had ever known, because they had no other friends or family,” Weekes’ explained. “The son wasn’t able to fully comprehend that the care provided to his father was not enough to meet his basic needs; that their home was in a neglected state with no electricity, and that meals were few and far between.”

In response, Weekes worked with the pair to create a plan that incorporated their wishes to remain together, but ensured that proper care was available to both.

All must act in cases of abuse or neglect

Across VCH, in fact, Social Workers have a crucial role to play in as Designated Responders to investigate concerns of adult abuse, neglect or self-neglect in the most effective and least intrusive manner. Having stated this, however, every VCH employee has a responsibility to act in situations of abuse, neglect and self-neglect of vulnerable adults.

“This is why recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is important to me and all of my colleagues,” said Weekes.

“Together, we would like to raise awareness of the many forms of elder abuse and also highlight the vital work that Social Workers and other Designated Responders undertake on a regular basis to protect our vulnerable adult population,” added Harjender Walia, program manager, Acute Treatment.

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