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Community & Business

15 March, 2022

Elder abuse: what to do

Around one in six people over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse in a community setting, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

By Emily Middleton

However, this statistic may be a lot higher as many cases go unreported, due to victims feeling embarrassed or concerned for their wellbeing.

Elder abuse is defined as “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”. Someone close to you, such as a younger family member or friend, causes you physical, financial, psychological, emotional, or sexual harm.

Gilgandra’s sergeant Nick Campbell has said that police will investigate claims of elder abuse and will always support their victims.

“Allegations of elder abuse can often lead to the successful prosecution of perpetrators and the ongoing protection of the victim with apprehended violence orders being put in place.” However, speaking about your experience with elder abuse, isn’t all that easy.

You may be feeling embarrassed or ashamed about the actions of a family member, or not aware of who to talk to or actions to take. You may also have a lack of understanding of abuse, along with legal and human rights, making you unaware of the abuse or situation you’re in. These are all completely valid feelings that may deter you from speaking up or reporting the abuse in the first place.

Or maybe you’re on the other side, hearing about somebody’s abuse, and unsure how to help them.

The following are some good tips to remember when communicating with someone you think may be experiencing elder abuse.


Be non-judgemental 

Make sure to not criticise the older person for tolerating the abuse. This can make them feel defensive, and not want to discuss it further. There are many reasons why a person may live in a situation where they are being abused. So try and focus on the importance of the older person’s safety and wellbeing, and let them know that help is available.


Listen, acknowledge, support

Ensure you acknowledge how the person is feeling. Reassure them that you trust them, you believe them, and that the abuse is not their fault. Remind them that help and support is available. Just know that there is every chance they may refuse help initially, however help may be accepted later when they feel more comfortable and confident.


Identify steps they can take

Before any action is taken, make sure the older per- son is aware of what support is available. You don’t want to jeopardise the person’s safety. Even if a person does talk about it, they may need your help to get things started.


Encourage participation

Being isolated is a known risk factor for elder abuse, so encouraging the person to stay connected to other people and to engage in activities outside of the home is essential. It is important for people to have a trusted person they can speak to or talk to if elder abuse becomes a reality.

Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.

According to WHO, victims of elder abuse were twice as likely to die compared to older people who do not report abuse.

The Orana Mid-Western Police District has a dedicated aged care prevention officer that specialises in elder abuse, and will provide people with the support they need.

People experiencing elder abuse, or person aware of abuse can call the local police, Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221 to report elder abuse 

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