First snapshot of elder abuse in Australia report released todayThu, 19 Mar 2015
Elder abuse has become a disturbing problem in Australia, one that will only escalate according to a report released today.
Figures from the first National Elder Abuse Annual Report show helplines from across Australia assisted 6,104 victims of abuse.
Just as child abuse and domestic violence were once unrecognised, elder abuse is a hidden social issue that involves the mistreatment of an older person, typically in their homes, usually at the hands of family and friends.
Elder abuse comes in many forms – financial, psychological, social, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect.
The report provides the first snap shot of elder abuse nationally, and this is believed to only show the tip of the iceberg.
Research into the extent of elder abuse suggest that as many as one in 20 older people may be experiencing abuse.
The report also says that 32.2% of perpetrators were the older person’s son, and 30.7% were the older person’s daughter.
Shrouded by self-blame, shame and fear, many cases are not reported and older people suffer in silence.
Elder abuse advocates are calling for the Federal Government to take action by developing legal and policy frameworks to deal with abuse.
Greg Mahney the Chief Executive Officer of Western Australia’s peak elder abuse support agency, Advocare, wants more reforms and a national approach to the issue.
He has suggested several measures to crack down on abusers, including random audits of enduring powers of attorney, to ensure they are being used legitimately, reforms to the banking industry, to alert older customers of unusual activity, and clarity to legislation about family agreements.
However, he said tougher penalties may lead to fewer cases being reported.
“Prosecuting may lead to family back-lash, or in many instances older people want the abuse to stop without breaking the relationship” Mr Mahney said.
Initiatives by the WA State Government on tackling elder abuse have been a positive step in the right direction. It has included funding of a WA elder abuse helpline and establishment of an alliance of state government agencies to facilitate developments in WA elder abuse policy and raising awareness.
“The ultimate outcome if no multi-disciplinary response is given, will be that thousands more seniors experience abuse” said Mr Mahney.
“The question we all ask is when will this issue be addressed nationally to ensure our seniors and our future seniors no longer suffer abuse” he added.
But until then, Australian seniors wait.
Click here to view the National Elder Abuse Annual Report