Like family violence, elder abuse is about one person having power and control over another person. Older people may experience abuse in a range of settings including in their own home and relationship, from an unpaid carer such as a family member, friend or neighbour or within an institutional setting.
Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. The abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, or can take the form of neglect.
Many older people do not discuss their concerns with others because of feelings of shame, fear of retaliation, the involvement of family members or worry that they will be placed into care. Some people may not realise what they are experiencing is abuse, or feel that somehow it is their fault.
So how can you help? Understanding the many forms abuse can take and being able to recognise the signs that an older person is experiencing abuse is an important first step.
Elder abuse can include the following:
- frightening the person by threatening to hurt their pet or break their belongings
- intimidation, humiliation or harassment
- threatening to evict or put the person into care
- stopping the person from seeing family or friends
- denying the person the right to make their own decisions
- pension skimming
- selling the person’s belongings without permission
- misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by taking money or property improperly
- forcing the person to change their will
- denying the person access or control of their own funds
- blocking access to services and support
- neglecting the person’s physical, medical or emotional needs
- slapping, hitting, pushing or restraining
- making unwanted sexual approaches or behaving indecently.
Signs that someone may be experiencing abuse
It’s important to remember that abuse may be occurring without any indicators or signs, and some signs may be caused by something other than abuse.
However, some signs to watch out for include:
- acting fearfully or withdrawn
- showing signs of stress, anxiety or depression
- bruising or other physical injuries
- an inability to pay normal bills or having unpaid bills
- marked weight loss
- changes in sleeping patterns.
If you are experiencing elder abuse, or suspect that an older person is being abused, it’s important to know that help is available.
If you know or suspect someone is being abused, you can:
- Let the person know that help is available
- Invite the person to talk in a place where they are alone and safe, and listen
- Let the person know it is not their fault
- Respect their right to make their own decisions
- Avoid being critical of the abusive person
- Keep providing support, even if they refuse help.
How to get help
If you or someone you know is feeling threatened or unsafe, call 000.
If you require further information or feel you’d like some confidential advice or support, you can contact the Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 651 192.
If you or your family has any concerns about your safety, Centacare offers a safe and supportive space for you to discuss your concerns.