Tuesday, 11 June 2013

More on Elder Abuse

Tomorrow is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The following article from the Hobart Mercury again highlights the problem.

A euthanasia bill may well be debated in Tasmania later this year, so this is particularly relevant given the relationship between abuse of vulnerable people and euthanasia. 

Euthanasia laws will create a possible cover for the ultimate in Elder Abuse.


Elderly Abuse on the rise


by  DUNCAN ABEY

A HIDDEN epidemic of elder abuse has been exposed in Tasmania by a new government helpline, which has logged 120, often shocking, stories in less than a year.

Acting head of Advocacy Tasmania Leanne Groombridge said the physical, psychological and financial abuse of the community's older members could be happening in the house just next door and suggested the calls made represented "the tip of the iceberg".

"Since we started operating the helpline it has become clear that most people who contact us are unsure who they can call," she said.

"They feel a sense of hopelessness and say that there is a lack of support. Our staff hear appalling stories, they are gut-wrenching and incredibly sad, but the message to get out there is that there is help.

"Some calls take up to two and a half hours. Callers are often frightened and feel powerless. And it's happening right across the community. It might be happening next door."

Ms Groombridge said the helpline, established in August last year, provided confidential advice to callers who can opt to remain anonymous.

And she said Tasmanians would be shocked that the helpline received calls about abuse, often at the hands of carers or family members, nearly every day.

"These things happen, and they happen in families who on the surface appear very caring and loving," she said.

"It could be family members saying to an elderly person, 'We need access to your account or you won't get to see your grandchildren.'

"We also see a lot of instances of other financial abuse, where money is taken without knowledge, or even where there has been power of attorney assigned without discussion with the person."

Of the 120 calls, 70 per cent related to older women, almost half involved a person older than 80, 55 per cent identified financial or material abuse, 68 per cent cited psychological or emotional abuse, and 60 per cent received formal information about legal services, medical support, and family violence support services.

Helpline operators listen to people's stories, then inform callers as to what their options are. Sometimes callers are referred to community social workers or Centrelink social workers, at other times police are involved.

Ms Groombridge said that every time the elder abuse campaign ad ran on television, call numbers to the helpline spiked.

"So the more we can get the word out about the service, the more people we are able to help," she said.

"The beauty of having a helpline run by Advocacy Tasmania is that we are able to take some of these referrals on and advocate for elderly people."

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