SASKATOON -- Tuesday marks Elder Abuse Day and a local researcher says awareness is the biggest way to fight it.

Donna Goodridge studies elder abuse at the University of Saskatchewan. She also examines social isolation, an issue that she says is closely related to abuse of seniors.

Isolation can be linked to disability, cognitive impairment, mental illness and language barriers, she said.

Goodridge says the pandemic has increased the risk factors which lead to mistreatment seniors. Not being able to see family and friends as much over the past year has increased the potential for caregivers or family to abuse elders physically, mentally or financially.

“There’s a lot of things that can happen with people who perpetrate elder abuse and sometimes they have a variety of stresses including caregivers who have been pushed to the limit during COVID,” she said.

Financial stress during the pandemic as well as the current opioid crisis has resulted in seniors being taken advantage of financially she adds.

Because seniors come from a generation where personal feelings or mental struggles weren’t discussed, it creates increased potential for abuse, according to Goodridge.

“In the past people kept their private matters private and there was a hesitancy to look bad in front of other people, there wasn’t the openness to share that there is now.”

Talking about elder abuse is key, according to Goodridge, who hopes increased dialogue will protect more seniors now and into the future.

Goodridge says elder abuse must be reported by the victim, much like domestic abuse.

Elliot PausJenssen was a social worker in her professional life and now at 81, she is a volunteer with The Saskatoon Council on Aging.

She says if you suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse, it’s important to remember not to make accusations because that could make them reluctant to get the abuser in trouble.

PausJenssen says that often the abuse is at the hands of a family member and seniors don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with someone who takes care of them.

“It a matter of giving them an opportunity to tell their story in an environment that they feel safe in telling,” PausJenssen says.