It is time to stop elder abuse It is time to stop elder abuse in our community, says Age Concern Otago. Saturday June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the international campaign to raise awareness and promote work to prevent elder abuse and neglect. Age Concern Otago’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Social Worker Marie Bennett says it is vital people speak out and a phone call to Age Concern is the right step. “Don't let fear of meddling in someone else's business stop you from voicing your concern. It is time to stop elder abuse in our communities and if we all pull together we can achieve this,” she said. Age Concern Otago is getting behind Age Concern’s Always Respected, Never Abusedpurple-themed campaign which aims to inform people that elder abuse - including financial and material, psychological, physical abuse, and neglect - is a widespread issue in New Zealand. A nationwide appeal will help fund prevention work. Ms Bennett said elder abuse and neglect prevention services receive an average of six calls per day about older people suspected of being abused or neglected. In over half of these cases, abuse or neglect is confirmed. She said in New Zealand the most commonly reported types are financial abuse and psychological abuse. “We know that's just the tip of the iceberg. But it doesn't have to be this way. The more people understand about elder abuse and what they can do to stop it, the better.” Ms Bennett said elder abuse is often fuelled by attitudes that are ageist and disrespectful of older people. "Some people think that because someone is old it doesn’t matter what happens to them anymore or they don’t need money to spend. “They make decisions for the older person without even asking them what it is they want. Or, they ridicule them about the decisions they do make. Sometimes, they pressure older people into doing things they don’t really want to do – like giving a loan, selling their house or letting a family member move in with them for free. Attitudes like these show a lack of respect for the older person, for their quality of life and for their needs.” Ms Bennett said between 70 and 80 percent of elder abuse and neglect in New Zealand occurs at the hands of family members. About half of abusers are adult children and about half of the abused elders are over 80-years-old. “This is one of the reasons it stays hidden. Many older people feel ashamed their own flesh and blood is treating them badly, so they won't talk about it. “We know that family are very precious to older people, and try to get a win-win result when there are difficulties with family relationships. We help people recognise that older people have a lot to contribute and are very valuable members of families and the community.” Ms Bennett said it is vital people contact Age Concern Otago if they suspect an older person is being abused or neglected. “Don't let fear of meddling in someone else's business stop you from speaking out. If we all pull together we can stop every kind of abuse.” Elder abuse and neglect prevention teams work closely with older people and their families to resolve issues of abuse and ensure it does not reoccur. They also work in communities to educate people about the signs and effects of abuse to help prevent it from happening and how to challenge disrespectful attitudes towards older people. Visit www.ageconcern.org.nz for the contact details of the nearest Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service.
For more information, contact Marie Bennett, Age Concern Otago. Ph 477 1040