In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day today (June 15), B.C. notaries are bringing attention to the often hidden but prevalent problem of older people being physically, emotionally or financially abused at the hands of strangers, acquaintances and even family members.
According to a release from B.C. Notaries, elder abuse is a significant concern in the province, where 18.3 per cent of B.C.’s population is aged 65 or older, compared to the national average of 16.9 per cent.
In Qualicum Beach, 52.1 per cent of the population is over the age of 65 — the highest percentage in the country. Parksville ranks third with 42.4 per cent.
Anthony McAulay of Anthony MacAulay Notary Corp. said Parksville Qualicum Beach is definitely an older population that needs documents in place for the future while they still have the capacity to do so.
The whole point of the documents, MacAulay said, is to care for a person when they can’t care for themselves.
MacAulay said these documents are put in place while the client still has the capacity to know who’s a trusted person.
“Certainly when I do an interview for a power of attorney, my first concern is assessing sort of the possibility of abuse,” he said. “I’ve got a checklist — red flags — for potential abuse; if a person is dependent on the family member for care or companionship — those are sort of what I get concerned about.”
Financial abuse, according to the release, includes loans to family or friends that aren’t paid back, forging a signature on documents, marking unauthorized withdrawals from the senior’s bank account or unauthorized charges on their credit card, and getting an older person to sign a will or power of attorney through deception or coercion.
“Strangers are pretty easy to identify,” MacAulay said. “If a family member is looking to take advantage of an older person, that can be hard to spot.”
Notaries help many seniors ensure their financial or real estate assets are safeguarded, so they don’t fall victim to a scammer.
The number one thing MacAulay said he would tell people is to be careful of the phone calls they receive and what appears on their computers.
“I tell people to call the RCMP if they have concerns,” MacAulay said. “As notaries we’re sort of on the front lines of powers of attorneys, wills, representation agreements (and) appointing trusted people to be in charge of your affairs.”
For more information on B.C. Notaries, visit www.notaries.bc.ca.