Talk­ing about el­der abuse

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

AN Auck­land or­gan­i­sa­tion is help­ing South Asian se­niors stand up against abuse as the num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dences of el­der mis­treat­ment con­tin­ues to climb na­tion­wide.

One­hunga-based Shanti Ni­was Char­i­ta­ble Trust has pro­vided cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties for In­dian and South Asian se­niors for more than two decades.

But af­ter see­ing an in­crease in clients with griev­ances about mal­treat­ment the trust de­cided to launch Khushi – an ini­tia­tive fo­cused on sup­port­ing vic­tims and pre­vent­ing abuse.

‘‘The most com­mon form of abuse we see is ne­glect,’’ pro­ject man­ager Nil­ima Venkat says.

Ad­just­ing from a bustling life­style in In­dia to a quiet New Zealand sub­ur­ban life rid­dled with lan­guage bar­ri­ers can be dif­fi­cult for older fam­ily mem­bers, Ms Venkat says.

‘‘Of­ten the younger peo­ple have got no time for the older peo­ple, maybe they are just busy with their own lives and their own chil­dren. Some­times it’s de­lib­er­ate, some­times it’s just that no­body has time for them.’’

Ms Venkat says fi­nan­cial abuse is the sec­ond most com­mon form of el­der abuse seen by Khushi staff.

Cases in­clude se­niors whose su­per­an­nu­a­tion is paid into an ac­count they don’t have ac­cess to, or be­ing co­erced into be­ing guar­an­tors for other peo­ple’s loans.

‘‘What mostly hap­pens is when th­ese older peo­ple come from In­dia and most of them have had houses at this age, so they sell off the house and bring the money here and they give it to their chil­dren. The chil­dren buy a house in their own name, so the money is gone ba­si­cally,’’ she says.

‘‘That’s

our

cul­ture, what­ever we have is for the chil­dren but we ex­pect the chil­dren to re­cip­ro­cate and look af­ter them. And that part is not hap­pen­ing.’’

Ms Venkat says stigma is a huge bar­rier to peo­ple com­ing for­ward for help, es­pe­cially be­cause perpe- tra­tors are of­ten fam­ily mem­bers so vic­tims fear a back­lash.

‘‘By the time a case comes to us it’s ei­ther a very se­ri­ous as­sault or it’s gone be­yond ev­ery­one’s lim­its of pa­tience.

‘‘That’s why we try and em­power them to come and talk dur­ing the ini­tial stages so we can solve the prob­lem eas­ily.’’

One­hunga based Labour list MP Carol Beau­mont reg­u­larly vis­its the Shanti Ni­was cen­tre and says Khushi is an im­por­tant ini­tia­tive that can of­fer cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port.

Ms Beau­mont is cur­rently ex­plor­ing the di­men­sions of the prob­lem of fi­nan­cial abuse af­ter it was bought to her at­ten­tion.

‘‘I’m ac­tively look­ing into that area to try and iden­tify how big a prob­lem it is and what pos­si­ble so­lu­tions there might be,’’ she says.

El­der abuse is not limited too any par­tic­u­lar eth­nic or so­cio-eco­nomic group.

Ad­vo­cacy and sup­port ser­vice Age Con­cern es­ti­mates in a 12-month pe­riod 20,000 el­derly peo­ple na­tion­wide will ex­pe­ri­ence abuse.

A spokes­woman says the num­ber of re­fer­rals is in­creas­ing, with de­mand for its ser­vices up 30 per cent in the last year.

‘‘We don’t have any idea whether it is ac­tu­ally the amount of el­der abuse that is in­creas­ing but we know that more peo­ple are aware of it, so they are more likely to speak about it.’’

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Help­ing hand: Nil­ima Venkat is the pro­ject man­ager for Khushi, an el­der abuse sup­port pro­gramme run by Shanti Ni­was Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

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