Photo © Courtesy of Senior Safety Line
“I don’t know what to do. Who will look after her when I get too sick?”
The distraught caller had just received a terminal diagnosis. He was the sole caregiver for his wife, who had dementia. The only solution he could see was an extreme one. Fortunately, the counsellor was able to hear his fear, stress, and desperation, and was able to provide support and validation, identify real and concrete options, and connect him to local supports he didn’t realize were available to him.
What began as a pilot project between the Assaulted Women’s Helpline (AWHL) and Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario over 12 years ago has evolved into an essential and critical support for seniors in Ontario, receiving more than 50,000 calls annually. The Seniors Safety Line (SSL) is now wholly operated and supported by the Assaulted Women’s Helpline. SSL is the only 24/7 crisis and support line for seniors across the province who have experienced or are experiencing abuse or neglect. The line provides callers with access to emotional support, crisis counselling, safety planning, information, and referrals.
The SSL is an accessible and inclusive telephone-based “senior-friendly” program. Trained professional counsellors help seniors navigate difficult systems and provide a one-stop resource for information, support, connection to services and programs and, where required, direct intervention. These personal interactions enhance callers’ social and emotional well-being and overall quality of life.
Relatives, friends, and caregivers can also call the SSL to help them support the seniors in their lives. Elder abuse is complex and can take many forms. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. As well, it is seldom an isolated incident—it recurs in 80 per cent of cases. Typically the abuser is a relative, such as a spouse, an adult child, or someone known and trusted by the senior.
For this reason, seniors may not view what is happening to them as abuse. They may be embarrassed, and they may not want to cause “trouble” for their abuser. This is where the SSL plays a vital role in shedding light on elder abuse and helping seniors and concerned bystanders identify the warning signs of abuse, providing tips on how to respond safely and effectively.
Fear is often a barrier to seniors seeking help. They may fear retribution, isolation, or losing their independence and financial freedom. SSL counsellors help callers address these fears by validating their concerns and identifying the resources and supports available to them in their local community. Ensuring a robust database of resources is essential to the ability to support SSL callers effectively. The SSL also works closely with community partners, such as local police services, legal clinics, and healthcare providers, to ensure a coordinated and effective response to elder abuse cases.
The SSL is an essential resource for seniors in Ontario and provides a vital lifeline for those who may feel alone or unable to navigate difficult situations. With your help, we will continue to provide seniors with the help and support they need to live free from abuse.
Photo © Courtesy of Assaulted Women’s Helpline On November 4th, 1985, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline answered its first call. In that first year, 5,000 calls
The Seniors Safety Line is the only 24 hour crisis and support line for seniors in Ontario who have experienced any type of abuse or neglect.