“Older people are an essential strand in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” says Jenny Blakey, Manager of Seniors Rights Victoria. She makes a very valid point when she states “Just as respectful relationships within families help prevent family violence, respect for older family members is a primary protection against elder abuse.” Today 15th June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). This day was first recognised by the United Nations in 2011, as a day of international opposition to the abuse of older generations.
Elder abuse is defined by the World Health Organisation 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.” Financial abuse is the most common, although other types of abuse include physical, social, psychological or sexual. Unfortunately, many cases are not reported and the abuse almost always occurs out of sight of others. In my role as a Placement Specialist for aged care accommodation I sometimes see evidence of abuse and have, at times, helped clients who are recovering from financial abuse.
Abuse is hard to spot, but some of the signs to look out for include fearfulness, anxiety, or isolation on the part of the older person, or unexplained injuries and absence of personal care. Seniors Rights Victoria advises to also watch out for disappearing possessions, unexplained or frequent changes to a will or property title, and unexplained bank transactions or withdrawals as these may be signs of financial abuse. If I suspect abuse of any kind, I firstly make sure I have all the facts, then I contact Seniors Rights Victoria who provide advice on the best way to proceed.