SUDBURY -- Elder abuse is an important issue every year, but experts say with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year it’s worse.

“Since about March of last year, we have seen a dramatic increase in abuse and neglect of older people in Canada,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, with Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization.

“We estimate that the increase is about 250 per cent and in particular the increase has been around financial abuse and physical abuse -- and that doesn’t even include the abuse in long-term care homes.”

Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized on June 15, bringing attention to physical, emotional, financial and fraudulent abuse of seniors.

“About two-thirds of all abuse and neglect is perpetrated by those closest to us,” Watts said. “Family members, friends and close caregivers, and that’s true for physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, and that’s true for sexual abuse and other violations of rights, as well."

She said they have seen a sharp increase in frauds and scams targeting older people. There is a lot to be done, including supports and funding for community organizations and more awareness.

“We have very, very few resources and it’s actually inexcusable,” Watts said.

“The federal government is looking at creating an elder abuse criminal charge, and I do think that that is a good idea. And last we need to destigmatize abuse and neglect the way that we destigmatized things like mental health.”

Advocates for older people said some things can be done now.

“The time we can take off our masks and go and visit our seniors, engage with them, bring them life back into them, bring them back into life, as well,” said Hugh Kruzel, with the Canadian Association for Retired Persons. “Engage with them, active their senses. Take them to lunch. Bring them -- I don’t know, bring them something -- bring them flowers if you can.”

Elder Abuse Awareness Day has been recognized globally for 16 years and although experts hope for a day that it no longer has to be acknowledged, recent statistics show just how important it is to bring these issues to light.

'We need a whole year'

“Do we need a day for this? No, we need a year. We need a whole year for this awareness,” said Kruzel.

Experts say there are options for elders who are feeling taken advantage of including the seniors safety line, Crime Stoppers, Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and talking to trusted family members and friends.