How well protected is the dignity and rights of your elderly loved ones? With advances in medical research and healthcare, people are living longer. However, longevity does not always equate to respect. Many older people  say how they feel “invisible”; that people don’t appear to see or listen to them. In some circumstances, this lack of respect can manifest as Elder Abuse.

All adults, irrespective of their age,  physical and mental capacity or life choices, have the right to be treated respectfully, to receive needed information, and to make personal decisions including refusing options and services that may be offered to them.  Any action that impedes those rights for older persons may be Elder Abuse.

What is Elder Abuse?

There are several types of Elder Abuse:

  1. Psychological (emotional, mental, verbal) abuse including verbal intimidation, humiliation, harassment or threats of various kinds.
  2. Financial abuse, which is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s finances or assets without their informed consent. It can include being forced to make changes to legal documents in a way that the older person is not happy with, forging the older person’s signature, misuse of the older person’s bank cards, or using a  Power of Attorney but not acting in the best interests of the older person.
  3. Social abuse is  intentionally preventing an older person having social contact with family or friends or accessing social activities of their choice.   Abuse behaviours may include removing the older person’s access to a phone or computer, or not supporting them to attend social activities.
  4. Neglect is where the older person is not provided with adequate food and fluids, hygiene, accommodation, medical care and similar daily living needs.
  5. Physical abuse through causing physical pain or physically restricting the older person’s free movement. This can including using force that causes bruising, pushing or shoving, and over or under medicating the older person.
  6. Sexual abuse is any behaviour that makes the older person feel uncomfortable about their body or gender. In addition to the many types of sexual assaults criminal behaviour, the abuser may also control the older person by using sexually offensive language and gestures.

Given Australia’s ageing population, in the near future almost half of the nation’s wealth will be held by those over 65 years of age, yet they can often have the least amount of power. Recent research* suggests that psychological, neglect and financial abuse are the most common types of Elder Abuse with possibly as many as 1 in 5 older women experiencing such abuse.  Older women are significantly more likely to be victims than older men, and abusers more likely to be sons rather than daughters. Unfortunately, these statistics are probably under-estimate, given many parents would not report their child for stealing from them, or treating them cruelly.

Advocacy at Hand

If you or anyone you know may be  experiencing Elder Abuse and need help, contact Faileen James who can act as an advocate on your behalf. As an advocate, Faileen will provide confidential and independent advice to the older person and their representatives, and always act in the older person’s best interests to negotiate a resolution that maintains the older person’s dignity.

 * Reference:  Elder abuse Understanding issues, frameworks and responses, Research Report No. 35 – February 2016

“Thanks sincerely Faileen for your timely, caring, well thought out, and practical advice about an elderly lady for whom we were concerned. Your advice has helped us to delicately approach the subject, whilst being mindful of possible ramifications, and to have a plan forward”.  Brad S

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