Elder abuse is the focus of a new campaign by the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) that was recently launched on International Day of Older Persons.
Reports of elder abuse have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and now the HRC has launched a video outlining the warning signs.
The video has been created to help anyone who interacts with older Australians.
In the video, common examples of elder abuse are described – the prized possession sold or given away, when an older person disappears from their community, and unexplained bruising.
Thousands of older Australians are the victims of elder abuse every year. Tragically, sometimes the perpetrators are those closest to them.
“Elder abuse can happen to any older person, regardless of their background,” said Age Discrimination Commissioner the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO.
“Anyone who comes into contact with older people – be it friends, family, health professionals, hairdressers, librarians and many others – may be in a position to notice signs of elder abuse.”
During the pandemic, older people have been particularly vulnerable.
“It has provided ripe conditions for elder abuse to flourish, while also making it harder to identify hidden abuse,” said Patterson.
Statistics from the Australian Institute of Family Studies collected before the pandemic showed that between an estimated 2% and 14% of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year.
Financial abuse was the most common form of elder abuse.
“A key risk factor for financial elder abuse is an increase in financial pressures on the children of older people, such as loss of employment and rising housing costs. COVID-19 may be exacerbating these pressures,” Dr Patterson said.
“It is essential that anyone who works, or comes into contact, with older people is equipped to prevent, identify and respond to elder abuse. I hope this campaign helps more people to recognise the ‘red flags’ and know that they can do something about it.
“Sometimes people are hesitant to report abuse because they feel it is not their place to intervene or they may simply not know where to get support.
“It is important to appreciate that an older person’s brief encounter with their local GP, hairdresser, librarian or home care service provider, could be one of few opportunities for elder abuse to be spotted and for the older person to be assisted in accessing information and support.”
If you suspect elder abuse, you can call the National Elder Abuse phone line on 1800 ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374 for confidential information, support and referrals.
The helpline doesn’t expect people who call to have all the answers. The report may still stop or prevent elder abuse.