Elder Abuse: State Government pledges funds for helpline to assist our most vulnerable

Stock image.
Stock image.

A NEW report on elder abuse brings to light a concerning trend regarding mistreatment of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Phone calls to elder abuse helplines almost doubled in 2014-15 financial year compared to the year before, jumping from 3159 to 6515.

And, according to a report on the subject released on June 15, World Elder Abuse Day, much of the abuse was psychological and financial.

The report was prepared by Advocare, Western Australia’s peak elder abuse support agency.

Psychological abuse of elders – defined as those over the age of 60, or 50 in the case of Indigenous Australians – was the reason for 39 per cent of complaints.

These can include mistreatment involving verbal intimidation, humiliation, harassment, threats of various forms, removing decision-making power or an enduring guardian acting inappropriately.

Financial abuse made up 37 per cent of complaints, and can include non repayments of home loans, denying access to personal funds or misuse of a bank card.

The chief executive of Advocare, Greg Mahney, said raising awareness of the issue was crucial.

“The significant increase in calls to helplines across Australia in the last 12 months shows that elder abuse is being recognised in the community, but there is still much work to be done to identify people who are suffering so they can be assisted by agencies like ours.

“Elder abuse can come in many forms – financial, psychological, social, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect.”

Mr Mahney said that although research indicated that 4.6 percent of older people in Australia may experience elder abuse, the real figure was likely to be much higher.

“Many cases go unreported for reasons of self-blame, shame and fear, and many older people suffer in silence. Nearly 90 per cent of perpetrators of elder abuse are family members,” he said.

The Elder Abuse Helpline has received a boost in the form of a $135,000 injection from the State Government announced on Wednesday.

Seniors and volunteering minister Tony Simpson said the service was a key defence.

“The Elder Abuse Helpline provides a single point of contact for those affected, offers advice, and facilitates referral and triage to other services when necessary,” he said.

Call the WA Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 724 679 if you are being abused or suspect abuse is happening to someone you know.