What is elder abuse?
World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as: ‘a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person’.
In Australia, only 1 in 5 cases of elder abuse are reported. Most abuse of older people in by family members or relatives.
Elder abuse often has similar signs as domestic violence because it is both mental and physical violence against an older person and often takes place behind closed doors by a relative or other loved one. People may have bruises and other unexplained injuries or wounds, which may mean they are experiencing physical or sexual abuse.
Elder abuse comes in many forms:
How to spot elder abuse?
Elder abuse may be occurring if you notice changes in patterns of behaviours of your loved one. Listen to what they are saying and take it seriously and try not to discount what you are being told.
It is often difficult for an older person to recognise they are experiencing elder abuse and so it is up to us to look out for our older people.
Outside friends, family or medical professionals may be able to pick up on subtle queues from their loved ones who are experiencing elder abuse.
For example, an older friend who may struggle to buy a newspaper they always used to buy. This may indicate that they’re having financial problems or someone has taken control of their finances.
Bruises and other unexplained injuries may indicate an older person is being physically or sexually abused.
This is the most common type of elder abuse in Australia.
You can usually spot financial abuse if high-value items and belongings go missing or there are issues with paying regular bills.
Since the house is the most expensive possession most people own, if an elderly person suddenly decides to sell, or family members move in, this could be a result of outside pressure.
If an elderly person avoids medical appointments or buying essential items, this may be a sign that they’re having trouble affording necessary food and health care and could highlight that something is wrong.
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Emotional or psychological abuse
This type of abuse often comes from pressuring, bullying, name-calling or threatening to harm a person, someone they love or their pet.
Emotional abuse can result in your loved one becoming fearful, depressed, sad, lonely and feeling helpless. If an older person is belittled by an abuser over a period of time, it can also lead to low self-esteem.
Emotional abuse often causes behaviour that are similar to dementia like rocking, sucking or mumbling.
What to do if you notice elder abuse?
If you witness elder abuse, report it to the police and the aged care facility (if the older person resides in one). Keep reporting incidents if you see them as the more reports the police have, the larger their file of evidence.
If you can, take notes and photos of the abuse.
If you are talking to an older person about the abuse, reassure them and say that this is not normal and something can be done. If they live in an aged care facility, they can limit visitor’s access to the resident or take action against a staff member.
Elder abuse comes in many forms:
Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) Ph: 1800 700 600
NSW Elder Abuse Helpline Ph: 1800 628 221
Serious physical or sexual abuse Call the police on 000.
How can we help?
If you suspect elder abuse, please report to the police and/or aged care facility, then call us.
Can you answer ‘yes’ to all of the following questions? If not, you may be suffering elder abuse.