The Elder Mistreatment Helpline: 10 years (and counting!) of offering support

The Elder Mistreatment Helpline team
The Elder Mistreatment Helpline team

On October 1, 2010, the Elder Mistreatment Helpline came into being as three intake workers began to answer calls out of a shared office at CLSC René Cassin in Cote St. Luc. As the helpline proudly enters its tenth year of offering support to both professionals and members of the public across Quebec, their office space looks somewhat different today.

The helpline has been in a state of constant growth over the last nine years, as various awareness campaigns launched by the Quebec health ministry have led people to better recognize potential cases of mistreatment.

As it enters its tenth year of operations, the helpline has enlarged and modernized their offices – there are now ten intake workers to handle the ever-growing influx of phone calls.

While the bulk of the calls come from the public (see sidebar), the helpline is also seeing an increase in calls for professional consultations. The calls come in from various professionals – many of whom work in long-term care settings in both the public and private sectors.

The Elder Mistreatment Helpline’s Cindy Thériault points out that it’s not a surprise, given the close relationship that develops between staff in long-term care centres and the residents they look after. “A PAB (orderly) may notice family members visiting the resident, acting a bit rough and asking for money,” Ms. Thériault explains. “In another case, a nurse on the weekend shift may need some guidance on when to call police in the case of residents being aggressive with each other.”

During a professional consultation call, the intake worker will determine what measures have already been taken as they propose a new set of recommendations. In each case, the recommendations are validated with the SAC (clinical activities specialist) on site. All calls are confidential. If an intake worker deems a follow up is necessary, the caller will be asked to call back.

Elder Mistreatment Helpline coordinator Sylvie Bouchard says their vantage point is beneficial. “It’s good to help structure their intervention from a distance,” Ms. Bouchard says. “It’s more stressful for the professionals who are in the thick of the situation – we can take a more neutral approach.”

In addition to their newly modernized workspace, the Elder Mistreatment Helpline also has a new website offering new resources and tools for professionals:

Sylvie Bouchard points to the current reality in Quebec of an aging population, more cognitive problems and fewer caregivers available to help meet the rising needs – that’s where she says the helpline fills the gap. “We offer specialized support when there’s none to be found, 365 days a year,” Ms. Bouchard says.

Passing the torch

Nearly ten years after she answered the first phone call ever to come in at the Elder Mistreatment Helpline, Coordinator Sylvie Bouchard is getting ready to pass the torch as she prepares for retirement.

As she looks back on her career, offering support has been a constant theme for Ms. Bouchard. Supporting her team members and colleagues at the helpline has been the most recent priority in her role as coordinator, but Ms. Bouchard had an interest in elder mistreatment, dating back to university – where she focused her studies on that very topic. Throughout her career, she worked as an acupuncturist and a home care social worker – all the while providing support to those in need.

Ms. Bouchard says it’s important for professionals to not get too emotionally involved in cases of elder mistreatment. “It’s important to always keep our role in mind,” she says. Stressing the importance of feeling supported by one’s team, Ms. Bouchard adds: “In order to support others, you have to feel supported.”

Rachel Thadal will be succeeding Sylvie Bouchard as Coordinator of the Elder Mistreatment Helpline. Ms. Thadal has been working at the helpline in project development. She wants to see awareness of the helpline continue to grow, both within our CIUSSS as well as province-wide.

Elder Mistreatment Helpline 1-888-489-2287

  • The Elder Mistreatment Helpline responded to the greatest number of calls ever last year: 5,749 calls from the general population and 474 requests for professional consultations.
  • The calls for professional consultations were up by nearly 26 percent from the year before; the number of calls was nearly 46 percent greater than what had been predicted based on previous years
  • Calls from the public increased by just over 9 percent
  • Partnership with the financial sector: 29 consultations from the financial sector in 2018-2019
  • The number of intake workers at the Elder Mistreatment Helpline has doubled – from 5 to 10 in the last two years.


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