Unfortunately, ‘elder abuse’ is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, and accordingly it is important to be aware of the signs that elder abuse may be occurring.
The Australian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “any act occurring within a relationship where there is an implication of trust, which results in harm to an older person. Abuse may be physical, sexual, financial, psychological, social and/or neglect”. Generally, the age in Australia which is used as the starting point for being defined as an ‘elder’ is 65.
Due to its nature, this type of abuse is generally carried out by someone close to the elderly person such as their spouses, child/ren, grandchildren, other family members or even their neighbours or friends and can be either unintentional or deliberate.
Often, elderly people who are unable to care for themselves live with their adult children or other family members, and are reliant on those people for accommodation and assistance with their daily needs. As people get older, they become more physically frail, and may also suffer medical impairments which make it harder for them to see and hear, and even think clearly or articulate their opinions and thoughts. They are also much less likely to stand up to bullying behaviour or fight back if they are attacked.
It is important that people are aware of how this type of abuse occurs and an attempt is made to reduce the known risk factors involved.
Elder abuse can take on many forms. For example, emotional abuse can include intimidation using threats or yelling, the elder can be humiliated or ridiculed and they can find themselves the subject of habitual blaming or scapegoating. The elderly person can be isolated from friends or activities which they enjoy or can be simply ignored by those supposed to be caring for and assisting the elderly person resulting in neglect and/or abandonment.
The predominant risk factors which appear to be present when elder abuse is found to have occurred are:
- Social isolation;
- Cognitive Impairment or other disability;
- Family conflict/family dynamic.
Recognising signs of abuse
Although it may be difficult to identify elder abuse, there are some signs that abuse may be occurring and it may well be worth keeping an eye on the situation, and reporting it if necessary.
Physical abuse, including neglect –
- unexplained injuries including bruises, welts, scars, broken bones, or broken glasses/frames;
- unusual weight loss, dehydration or malnutrition;
- untreated medical problems – i.e. bedsores;
- unsanitary appearance, soiled clothes, unbathed.
Emotional abuse –
- witnessing threatening, belittling or controlling behaviour towards the elderly person;
- behaviour exhibited by the elderly person that mimics dementia (rocking, sucking, mumbling to oneself).
Financial abuse –
- large withdrawals from the elderly person’s bank account;
- cash or items missing from the elderly person’s home;
- financial activity which is unusual for the elderly person.
Of course the above isn’t an exclusive list and there are many other signs which may indicate that elder abuse is occurring.
Various steps may be taken to mitigate against elder abuse, including:
- ensuring that your legal and financial affairs are in order. This is best done through the use of professional service providers and can be done with the assistance of a trusted friend or relative if needed.
- Make sure you keep in touch with your family and friends on a regular basis so that you do not become isolated.
- Tell someone that you trust or a professional service provider if you are not happy with care you are receiving (whether this be at home or elsewhere) and ask them to report the abuse to the relevant elder abuse help line on 1300 651 192 (Qld).
Affinity Lawyers have experienced and professional legal team in place to assist you with discussing your options and getting your estate planning in order, so contact our office on 5563 8970 or visit us at suite 3 / 385 Oxley Drive Runaway Bay, Gold Coast to arrange an appointment today.