Better At Home coordinator Shelby Weeks hands out emergency kits and information on elder abuse. She also hung banners and flags from the BC Community Response Network, which facilitates abuse prevention and education events across the province. /ABIGAIL POPPLE

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Robson Valley Community Services (RVCS) held a gathering in Centennial Park for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day last Thursday.

At the event, Better At Home Coordinator Shelby Weeks passed out emergency kits and shared information about elder abuse with passers-by. Better At Home provides non-medical support services to seniors living in their own homes, and Weeks makes regular visits to Valemount seniors.

She says her work has given her firsthand experience with the effects of elder abuse.

“I worked for Better At Home down in Abbotsford for two years, and I’ve been in homes where there’s care aids going into homes not being the nicest,” she said, recalling a time where a care aid didn’t make the water a safe temperature for a senior she was bathing. Weeks had to intervene and turn the temperature down herself. 

“So today, we’re letting people know, ‘Hey, (elder abuse) is still happening. It’s happening in our care homes, it’s happening out in public, it’s even self-neglect,’” she said.

Weeks added that self-neglect – when a senior’s health and hygiene suffers due to not having adequate support at home – is particularly hard to combat, because elders who self-neglect often do not reach out for help. If she suspects a senior is self-neglecting, she can make more frequent home visits to check on them, she said.

Weeks said if Valemount residents notice an elder who is struggling, they can contact RVCS to get in touch with her. 

“You can also come into my office, or phone me,” she said. “Then, I’ll direct you on where we can go. Sometimes I have to call a higher up … we can go to Northern Health or the RCMP, and I can help them do your report and be there with (the senior) while we go through that process.”

RVCS also has counsellors and other support workers available throughout the process, Weeks said. For example, Stopping the Violence Outreach Worker Navpreet Kaur was at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event with Weeks.

“I work with self-identified women… fleeing from violence, or who have faced violence in their lifetime,” Kaur told The Goat. “I’m here to let elderly women know we have these resources.”

Similar to Weeks, Kaur connects people looking for support with appropriate services.

“When somebody contacts RVCS and has some aspect of violence in their case, I’ll handle their case,” she said. “I’ll get them the help they need. It could be financial help where they can get income assistance, or if they’ve been fleeing from violence and they don’t have a place to live, we have the Safe at Home program, Second Stage Housing (Ada’s Place), and long-term rentals.”

Weeks added that RVCS has more programming in the works for people of all ages. For the next two months, she’s running an educational program for men that includes workshops on bike tune-ups and first aid, she said. For seniors, she hopes to organize a regular exercise program in the fall, and hopes to have a technological literacy workshop soon.