Rise in reporting of elder abuse

New data shows a 38 per cent increase in reports of elder abuse in New…

New data shows a 38 per cent increase in reports of elder abuse in New South Wales during 2020-2022.

Almost 8,500 older people were abused during that period, according to a report from the NSW Ageing and Disability Commission. Released to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, the statistics make for alarming reading.

During the three-year period, the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline fielded more than 38,000 calls – 77 per cent of those involved older people.

The largest proportion of reports during the period related to people aged between 75-84 years old, with the majority of abuse – 67 per cent – involving women.

Most of the abuse – 60 per cent – was perpetrated by the older person’s relatives, with 53 per cent involving an adult child.

Forty per cent of abuse was psychological – including verbal abuse and preventing access to family and friends, while 28 per cent of abuse was financial – including misuse of power of attorney and theft.

Robert Fitzgerald

Robert Fitzgerald – NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner – told Community Care Review there are number of reasons for the rise in the reporting of elder abuse. “Firstly, it’s absolutely an increased awareness in the community that abuse can happen,” he said.

Particularly in relation to financial abuse. “Financial institutions, banks, superannuation funds and so on, are more aware of it and there’s a greater concern in the community about it – so that’s one thing.”

Secondly, said Mr Fitzgerald, as the population ages, the risk factors increase. “There are simply more older people who are at that high-risk group ­– 75 to 85 years of age – where you’ve got those three factors: frailty, dependency and some loss of cognition for some people.”

Mr Fitzgerald told CCR the risk factors had been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. “Social isolation in one sense, older people being forced back into living with families – which sometimes is not desirable at all.”

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a United Nations initiative established to highlight the abuse and suffering inflicted on older people. Elder abuse affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world.

One of the ways to tackle the rise in elder abuse is to have more help available, said Mr Fitzgerald. “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got places to go where people who are concerned can raise those issues … support groups that deal with older people absolutely become familiar with the risk factors or signs that abuse is occurring.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse call the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline – 1800 628 221 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am-5.00pm) – for information, support or to make a report. 

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Tags: elder abuse, NSW Ageing and Disability Commission, robert-fitzgerald,

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