elder abuse in minority communities

Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health (IALH) – University of Victoria worked to explore and map the unique issues in Elder Abuse in minority communities, specifically in the Chinese and South Asian communities of Greater Victoria and the Lower Mainland. A number of questions and recommendations were developed as a result of this project.

Project Objectives:

  • Explore the nature of elder abuse in the Chinese and South Asian communities to assess the communities’ unique needs.
  • Build awareness around the prevention, recognition and response to elder abuse in the Chinese and South Asian communities.
  • Support front-line workers through education and training (i.e., by increasing access to relevant tools to help them to respond effectively and protect older adults in these communities).
  • Create a shared leadership and collaborative network across the partner organizations and their affiliates to reduce elder abuse in these ethno-cultural minority communities in BC.

Key Partners:

  • Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL), National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE), MOSAIC, Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society (VLMFSS)

Activities:

  • Mapping research; identified tools (digital and paper) available for practitioners, older adults and their families in the Chinese and South Asian communities. 
  • Data transcription and analysis; themes were identified; new issues and challenges facing the target population were uncovered; gaps were identified in terms of tools and resources.
  • Created a visual map for awareness-building based on discussions with focus groups. 
  • Identified resources necessary to build awareness about issues in the communities.
  • In consultation with key informants from the Chinese and South Asian communities, developed posters to promote awareness and provided these to stakeholders including immigrant and settlement organizations and health care authorities.
  • Raising awareness about the issues addressed by the project through media and social media.

Outcomes:

  • Visual map: Map was created to outline the existing and needed resources to serve as a capacity-building tool for the elder abuse sector in BC.
  • Poster: A poster is being created to act as a tool in building awareness about the issue of elder abuse in the two communities.

Tools and Resources: https://www.bcli.org/project/elder-abuse-in-chinese-and-south-asian-communities

  • Digital and paper versions of posters.
  • A series of plain language elder abuse posters that rely on minimal text and significant imagery to communicate information.  Ideally, posters will be placed at accessible locations such as pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and temples. The theme of healthy aging to frame the notion of abuse suggests that health care-related sites (doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals) may be ideal locations to post materials.
  • Blog article on CNPEA website at http://cnpea.ca/en/blog/565-jenny-ruan and on the CCEL website at http://www.bcli.org/category/ccel-blog.

Lessons Learned:

  • The term “abuse” has a strong negative connotation and it is difficult for many older adults to characterize their situations as abuse. Service providers felt that the tools need to use terminology that Chinese and South Asian older adults would feel comfortable with, accept and understand in order to be effective. Participants suggested that addressing the issue of elder abuse from a health angle would be a better way to initiate contact and dialogue.
  • Multiple generations living together in one residence and strong family ties can contribute positively to the lives of older adults in Chinese and South Asian culture, resulting in sustained relationships with children and grandchildren and less social isolation. However, these dynamics can also make it harder for older adults to talk about abuse or leave abusive situations.
  • Distinct cultural issues, such as shame, suggest that an intervention involving family mediation and safety planning might be more effective in these communities. Often older adults in these situations require outreach efforts, and traditional ways of supporting them from within the abusive relationship.
  • Older adults are reluctant to leave family even if they are not safe at home. Research is needed to identify safety planning strategies and approaches that are effective for ethnocultural minority and immigrant older adults living in situations where they are experiencing, or at risk of, elder abuse.  Social service agencies require funding to engage in safety planning with ethnocultural minority older adults.
  • Pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and temples are considered appropriate locations for elder abuse services or resources to be made available. Service providers indicated that public service announcements made through media, such as radio, newspaper, and television (presented in South Asian or Chinese languages), are the most popular, and thus most accessible means of offering information and services. Written text is sometimes not effective because older adults may not be able to read in any language.
  • Older women can be exploited because they are often expected to provide child care, and perform domestic duties. A gendered analysis is key. Tools targeting the whole family, and outlining services for older women, should also be developed.
  • To avoid cultural stigmatization, awareness building should champion the positive aspects of culture (cohabitation, collectivism, reverence for older adults), focusing on finding a “champion or pioneer” within the community and building capacity for peer support. Community members should be involved at every stage of research.
  • Collaboration between academia and community is needed to conduct meaningful research and effectively implement changes in communities.

Challenges:

  • Finding a South Asian research assistant with Hindi and Punjabi language skills.    
  • Limited funding for needed awareness building tools (e.g., public service announcement videos).

For Sustainability:

  • The project provides a basis for the development of further community resources tailored to address the unique needs of older adults and their families in different ethnocultural communities.