June 15, 2022

Recognising elder abuse

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) – a day to voice opposition to any abuse and suffering inflicted on older people.

Elder abuse is mistreatment of an older person that has been committed by someone with whom the older person has a relationship of trust with, such as a partner, family member, friend or carer. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual, and can include mistreatment and neglect. Elder abuse can also lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.

The World Health Organization describes elder abuse as a violation of human rights and significant cause of illness, loss of productivity, isolation and despair.

Tanya Ellis, Senior Social Worker, said elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries, yet is typically underreported globally.

“Elder abuse does not discriminate and has been shown to affect women and men, people from different cultural backgrounds and people with different levels of education and wealth,” she said.

“The incidence of abuse towards older people is predicted to increase as many countries experience rapidly ageing populations. Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older people around the world. It’s an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.”

Tanya says the warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. An older person may have injuries or an absence of personal care.

“Unexplained changes to legal documents or finances are also of concern. Most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it’s important to look out for signs of elder abuse and offer support,” she said.

To help prevent elder abuse, Tanya encourages older people to have their financial, medical, legal and other affairs in order.

“They must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and seek help when needed. WEAAD is an important day to provide a opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older people, by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.”

Here at Northern Health, resources regarding elder abuse are available and displayed across the health service. Staff can access the Elder Abuse Procedure on PROMPT, and elder abuse training is available in identification, response and referral of elder abuse.

“Please contact the Strengthening Hospital Response to Family Violence team to organise training for staff in your area. If you have concerns about the safety of an older person, please offer the patient a social work referral or contact Senior Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821,” said Tanya.

Featured image L-R: Subash Adhikari, Social Worker, Yoyo Tang, Social Worker, Penelope Vye, Associate Director Allied Health and Tanya Ellis, Senior Social Worker.