By Steve Hubrecht

[email protected]

Abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable and older adults is on the rise everywhere in the province, including here in the East Kootenay. 

An East Kootenay man who has dedicated his professional life to combating the trend will be visiting Invermere in a few weeks to start a community discussion on the topic.

Doug Newberry works as the East Kootenay mentor for the B.C. Community Response Networks (BCCRN). In this role, he brings information and resources to East Kootenay communities with the aim of helping them build a coordinated response to adult abuse and neglect. He’ll be in Invermere on Saturday, March 2.

“I want to start a conversation,” he told the Pioneer. “We want to increase awareness in the community. What does adult abuse and neglect look like? How can I help if I suspect it’s happening to someone I know?”

Newberry explained that the terms adult abuse, mistreatment and neglect can apply to anyone who is 18 years or older, but generally means seniors or vulnerable adults (including those with physical or mental health disabilities).

He hopes that eventually residents in Invermere will establish a community response network, such as has been created in other East Kootenay communities, including Golden, Cranbrook and Creston.

Newberry did not have specific statistics for the Columbia Valley or even the East Kootenay, but explained that adult and elder abuse is likely an increasing trend here, since it is rising everywhere across the province.

He cited the  Hidden and Invisible: Seniors Abuse and Neglect in British Columbia report, published in December 2021, which outlined that from 2016 to 2021 the cases of adult abuse and neglect reported to the health authorities increased by 49 per cent. This finding matches that of a 2021-2022 annual general report from Seniors First BC in which the seniors advocacy organization reported receiving 2,357 abuse-related calls, a 24 per cent increase from the previous year.

The BC trend is echoed nationally. A 2022 study in the journal Nature Aging led by David Burnes found an increase in the estimated prevalence of elder abuse in Canada of between four and eight per cent (as compared with previous studies). The study reported that elder abuse affects one in 10 seniors in Canada.

“Really it affects the whole world,” said Newberry. He added that the truth of adult and elder abuse is quite likely far worse than the statistics portray, and that experts estimate about half of such cases go unreported.

“A lot of that is because people just don’t know what it is, what signs to look for, much less how to go about helping if they do suspect it is happening.”

That’s where the March 2 event comes in. It will be held at the Invermere Senior’s Hall on 14th Street from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

During the afternoon talk Newberry will be outlining BCCRN’s three programs: See Something, Say Something (which teaches people about symptoms of adult abuse and outlines who to contact to report it); Spotlight on Ageism; and It’s Not Right, It’s Neighbours, Family and Friends (which outlines how individuals can talk with someone they suspect may be an adult or elder abuse victim).

“The idea of the It’s Not Right program is that if you have a family member, friend or neighbour who you think might be facing abuse, this program can help you to have a conversation with them, just to break the chain of isolation and let them know you’re there . . . it helps you connect with that person,” said Newberry. “Everyone can play an important role in the community in keeping others safe, secure, and independent.”

For more information contact Newberry at [email protected].