Today marks the beginning of Elder Abuse Awareness Week with this year’s theme Elder Abuse Hits Close to Home highlighting that thousands of older New Zealanders are being financially, psychologically and physically abused by their own adult children or grandchildren.

Age Concern is contracted to provide specialist Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services across the country including educating nurses and others working with older people/kaumātua.

The agency says about three-quarters of the reports it received are confirmed to involve elder abuse or neglect with the most common (75%) involving psychological abuse, over half involve financial abuse, 15-20 per cent involve physical abuse and 10-15 per cent involve neglect or self-neglect.  Many more cases of abuse are thought to go unreported and research has estimated that only about 16 per cent of all abuse incidents come to the attention of health or social service agencies.

Abusers are just as likely to be female as male with about half of alleged abusers being the victims’ adult children.  Aged Concern says family member abuse may begin while older people living in the community but they are aware it often continues even when the older person moves into residential care

Age concern is holding events across the country to mark the week and seeking donations from the public

More information on elder abuse can be found at www.ageconcern.org.nz or www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz

Contact Details for local Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services can be found here

Definition:

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.

(Definition adopted from WHO Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2002)

Categories of abuse

  • Financial abuse: including misuse of power of attorney and failure to repay loans
  • Psychological abuse: including preventing choice or decision-making
  • Physical abuse: includes over-medication
  • Neglect: includes lack of social contact or support
  • Sexual abuse: an example is inappropriate touching
  • Institutional abuse: an example is inappropriate rationing of continence products

What are the warning signs?

The following MAY indicate an older person is being abused:

  • Unexplained behaviour, sleeping or eating habits
  • Withdrawal and/or edginess
  • Fear of a particular person
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Drowsiness (due to over-medication)
  • Recoiling from touch
  • Unusual withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Unpaid bills, lack of money for necessities.

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