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Two Simple Changes Can Cut Risk of Elder Abuse: Ex-caregiver

Making two simple changes can significantly reduce the risk of elder abuse and neglect says a former live-in care worker, the first writer to tackle the topic in fictional form.

Making two simple changes can significantly reduce the risk of elder abuse and neglect says a former live-in care worker, the first writer to tackle the topic in fictional form.

Former daily newspaper journalist Scott Nelson spent three years (1995 to 1998) working in London, England living with and caring for several elderly people suffering from advanced dementia.

Now, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) scheduled for Monday, June 11, Scott has self-published The Carer, a short e-novel - in part to raise awareness of how vulnerable many elderly people are to abuse and neglect from the people paid to look after them, says Scott.

Explains Scott: "My care work assignments left me somewhat horrified by how infrequently my patients' relatives visited them - as well as the clockwork predictability of these visits when they did come.

"Meanwhile, I was surprised also to discover my employment agency checked in only if there was an administration query, and even then only by phone. And medical professionals, such as my patients' family doctors for example, never visited more than once a year and only for 20 minutes or so when they did call," he says.

"This distinct lack of actual and day to day supervision - which I gathered from other carers is typical - adds up to very little in the way of checks and balances to prevent on-the-job neglect and abuse.

"Combined with the fact that I did not have to clear any kind of police check in order to sign up with the care agency - and that this job tends to pay relatively poorly and attract unskilled people - I would say patients in this situation are very vulnerable indeed, especially when you consider how confused dementia leaves them.

"It is perhaps unsurprising then that elder abuse and neglect appears in the media with increasingly frequency - not just in Canada and the UK but across the developed world," concludes Scott.

Easy solution
Scott's care worker experiences taught him that the risk of abuse and neglect could be significantly cut by making two simple changes.

"Firstly, friends and relatives should develop a habit of dropping in on their relatives' care workers unannounced. This will show you what's really going on in the house at any given time - and will, at any rate, keep the care worker on his or her toes when it comes to keeping your relative well-cared for and keeping their home orderly.

"Secondly, install a simple webcam in whatever room your relative spends most of their time in. I would suggest the bedroom and also the living room. Even if the webcam isn't turned on, knowing they're always being watched will keep your care worker engaged and striving to maintain high standards most of the time."

Bigger picture
The enovel, an up-close portrayal of dementia, is published at a time when the debates around assisted dying and the right to die are both gaining momentum - as geriatric health costs continue to climb fast toward unaffordable levels.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person."

Elder abuse may take many forms: financial, physical, emotional or psychological, sexual and systemic (e.g. ageism).

Based on available Canadian data, it is estimated that between 4-10 percent of older adults in Canada experience some type of abuse (National Seniors Council, 2007).
In addition, a survey of nursing staff conducted by the College of Nurses of Ontario found that:

• 20 percent reported witnessing abuse of residents in long-term care settings

• 31 percent reported witnessing rough handling of patients/residents

• 28 percent reported witnessing workers yelling and swearing at patients/residents

• 28 percent reported witnessing embarrassing comments being said to patients/residents

• 10 percent reported witnessing other staff hitting or shoving patients/residents.
The ninth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) will be held from June 11-13, 2014. Find out more about WEAAD here:

Notes for editors

About The Carer
Described as a "gritty urban thriller with a social conscience", The Carer offers a tale of elder abuse, "patricide by proxy and the corrosive effects of power."

Explains the author: "Primarily, The Carer is a Faustian tale that takes a look at what can happen when you outsource responsibility for your loved ones to people who don't love them.

"My story examines how our increasingly materialistic and individualistic society is steadily shifting responsibility for our parents' wellbeing out of our own lives and into the effectively unsupervised hands of unskilled, unproven and, for the most part, uncommitted strangers - with the result that elder abuse is occurring with increasing regularity and severity throughout the developed world," he says.

"The Carer forces readers to ask how far our society has actually advanced since our ancient ancestors abandoned their weak, ill and old to the ice flows or the wolves, the moment they became a liability," says Scott.

Contact Scott Neilson

T: +1 (902) 240-4930 (cell)


Buy the book

The Carer is published by Phant Books! Download an ebook (only) version of The Carer for free. Simply go to and use the following coupon code at checkout: BX45Q (not case-sensitive). Please remember to review the book after you finish it.

About the author
Sometime in the early 1990s, New Zealander Scott Nelson traded a job as a reporter, feature writer and photographer on a daily newspaper for a one-way ticket to London - using the city as a base for six years of backpacking around five continents. Along the way, Scott worked as a travel, entertainment and business journalist; a pourer of pints, a tour guide, a salesman and as a live-in carer looking after elderly people with advanced dementia. Nowadays, he lives with his partner and young twins in Nova Scotia, where the Atlantic meets North America. Here, he works as a corporate storyteller and web developer. The Carer is Scott's third book - and his first novel.

More about Scott:

Interest groups working to prevent elder abuse

Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse:

(Canada) National Senior Council:

International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse:

(UK) Action on Elder Abuse:


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Tags: aging, Dementia, elder abuse, Elder Neglect, WEAAD, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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