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Group seeks municipal funding for elder abuse program

gabrielle kirk

Gabrielle Kirk is co-ordinator of the Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse.

A group dedicated to helping victims of elder abuse is scrambling to find funding to keep the Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse going.
The grant that funded the Claresholm-based program runs out in three months but elder abuse isn’t going away.
“It is a really important issue that needs to be talked about,” Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse co-ordinator Gabrielle Kirk said.
Kirk appeared as a delegation at Fort Macleod council’s Sept. 24 meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.
Kirk is requesting $8,000 from each of 10 municipal councils, including Fort Macleod, to continue the program.
Kirk told council that although the program is based a Claresholm, it serves communities across the south, including Fort Macleod.
“Elder abuse is an unfortunate reality in every community,” Kirk said, noting one in 10 seniors will experience some form of abuse.
The Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse program serves the MD of Willow Creek, Stavely, Claresholm, Granum and Fort Macleod.
The program also serves the towns and counties of Cardston and Vulcan and the town and municipal district of Pincher Creek.
“Elder abuse is any action or inaction that jeopardizes the health or well-being of an older adult,” Kirk told council.
The types of abuse experienced by older people include financial, physical, emotional, sexual, neglect and medication.
The Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse committee was formed in August 2016 and applied for funding from the ministry of seniors and housing.
Service providers and agencies in Claresholm identified gaps and challenges related to effectively addressing elder abuse.
Those included the large population of seniors in Claresholm, a lack of resources in the rural area and a lack of communication and co-ordination among agencies.
“There’s a stigma in the community to talk about elder abuse,” Kirk added.
Those challenges exist in other communities such as Fort Macleod, where almost one-third of the population are people aged 60 years and over, compared to the provincial average of 16 per cent.
The committee received two years of funding which allowed the creation of Kirk’s position as co-ordinator.
As co-ordinator, Kirk engages stakeholders, facilitates meetings, develops protocols, increases communication among service providers, and ensures sustainability of the program.
The program strives to make the best use of knowledge, services and expertise from multiple agencies and individuals to provide a better response to elder abuse.
“Due to the complex nature of elder abuse many diverse agencies are needed to respond to a single case,” Kirk told council.
Family and Community Support Services, RCMP, Claresholm Medical Clinic, Chinook Financial, Porcupine Hills Lodge, Cottonwood Lodge, Calgary Rural Primary Care Network, Claresholm Housing Authority, Town of Claresholm and Alberta Health Services are on the committee.
It took a year to develop the response model and protocols and a pilot project was launched in January.
The response team has dealt with 17 cases of elder abuse, including four financial, three neglect, three emotional, one physical, one sexual and five cases in which there were more than one form of abuse.
Four abuse cases were in Fort Macleod, and the response team also received cases from Granum, Pincher Creek and Vulcan.
“Seniors are experiencing elder abuse in communities all across southern Alberta,” Kirk said. “They’re having to turn to our program because there are no other options available for them, and we don’t really like to turn anyone away.”
The Co-ordinated Community Response to Elder Abuse would like to become a regional program so it is better positioned to help seniors.
There would be a response model for each community, as well as awareness and education programs.
The committee has applied for provincial funding for a rural case manager position.
“We are very hopeful . . . but would like to prepare for any outcome,” Kirk said of the grant applications. “Without adequate funding cases will go mis-managed and unmanaged and seniors won’t receive the help they need,” Kirk said.
Council received the request but did not make any decisions at the Sept. 24 meeting.
“I do understand this is a big request but I would not be here today if I didn’t truly believe that this is a needed program,” Kirk said.

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