Age Concern fighting back against growth of elder abuse
Just like our terrible child abuse figures, New Zealand has shocking elder abuse figures and as our ageing population continues to grow, it is likely that so, too, will our elderly abuse statistics unless something is done to curb this horrendous problem.
During the week of June 15-22, Age Concern branches around New Zealand will be holding events and speaking through the media to raise awareness of elder abuse and neglect.
Every year, thousands of older New Zealanders are being abused and as a community it is our responsibility to ensure that older people are always respected and cared for and never abused.
With this year marking the 10th anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, it is time to make a nationwide commitment to work harder to prevent all types of elder abuse from poisoning our society.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse and neglect is 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.
Commonly, several types of abuse occur together. The types of abuse include:
psychological abuse, which involves behaviour causing mental anguish, stress or fear;
financial abuse involving Illegal or improper use of money, property or other assets;
physical abuse with the infliction of pain, injury or use of force;
neglect by not providing for physical, emotional or social needs;
sexual abuse using non-consensual sexual acts or exploitive behaviours; and,
institutional abuse involving a policy or accepted practice within an organisation that disregards a person’s rights or causes harm.
The effects of elder abuse.
The personal losses associated with abuse can be devastating and include the loss of independence, homes, life savings, health, dignity and security.
More than half the older people who are referred to Age Concern’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services suffer debilitating long-term health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, loss of selfesteem and exacerbation of chronic health conditions, as a direct result of elder abuse.
Elder abuse also damages family relationships causing isolation and loneliness, grief and great sadness to the older person. Financial abuse can erode assets and savings so that the older person may find it difficult to buy essential medications, or pay for healthcare. They may not be able to pay bills and may even lose their home and possessions.
Older people who have been abused lose their ability to live independently and require ongoing support from the health sector, or residential care.
Almost half of abused older people are over the age of 80.
One-third of abused older people live alone.
Three-quarters of alleged abusers are family members; and we know this often continues even when the older person moves to residential care.
Almost half of alleged abusers are adult children. Abusers are as likely to be female as male. As a society, we have the power to change these statistics and help ensure our older people get the care, respect and dignity they deserve.
If you suspect an elderly person you know is being abused in some way, then it is time to take action. There are plenty of people to talk your concerns through with including your Aged Concern branch, the police or other community health providers.
See ageconcern.org.nz for more information.