February 28th, 2024

Medicine Hat to benefit from elder abuse funding

By KENDALL KING on April 21, 2023.

kking@medicinehatnews.com

A $7.4-million provincial funding investment is helping enhance elder abuse support services in municipalities across Alberta, including Medicine Hat which has both a substantial senior population and a significant number of elder abuse cases reported each year.

Announced Tuesday, the three-year investment will provide $3.2 million in program and service funding to the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, as well as $4.2 million in operational funding to Calgary’s Kerby Union Centre and Edmonton’s Sage Seniors Safe House.

“This money goes a long way to actually put supports in communities and make sure that they’re sustainable,” Shantel Ottenbreit, AEAAC chair and Medicine Hat resident, told the News. “It’s really a recognition of the importance of having services available for older adults, and a recognition of the importance of the issue.”

A long-time seniors advocate, Ottenbreit says elder abuse is a serious issue which often goes unnoticed due to its nature; thus, it is necessary to have strong services and supports in place to generate awareness, aid in prevention and facilitate intervention when needed.

“For the last few years, we’ve been really focused on case management,” said Ottenbreit. “However with this funding, we’re also expanding to ensure that there’s education, awareness and community response co-ordination.”

While the funding will benefit various regions of the province, its effects will be especially welcome in Medicine Hat, says Ottenbreit, noting the city ranks fourth highest in elder abuse cases reported to AEAAC case managers provincially, and second highest when compared to cities of a similar size.

“Now, that’s not saying that, necessarily, our prevalence rate is higher,” said Ottenbreit. “It just means that people in Medicine Hat are either aware of where the services are available and are seeking them out, or that they are recognizing (elder abuse) and coming forward and looking for the services.

“So that’s why, to me, this work (is important) because there is a benefit to our community and … to older adults who are in Medicine Hat.”

Local AEAAC elder abuse case management is operated through Medicine Hat’s Veiner Centre, the sister centre of Kerby Unison Centre, which will be receiving $878,000 annually for the next three years.

Funding provided to Kerby will go toward increasing the number of available beds at its Calgary seniors shelter from nine to 14.

Making note of the expansion, Unison board chair Richard Parker said, “It’s a building which you’d wish we didn’t need, but we do.”

Studies estimate one in every 10 Albertans over the age of 65 has been impacted by abuse, though the number could be much higher due to under-reporting.

Common forms of elder abuse in Alberta are financial, emotional, physical, sexual, neglect and medication.

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