Police saw a carer punching, slapping and verbally abusing an elderly woman after they received a tip-off from a concerned neighbour.

When police arrived at the elderly woman’s home in Thirroul, south of Sydney, on Friday night, they saw her carer, 26-year old Alicia Gawronski, punching her on the thigh after she had fallen down.

Police reported they could also hear yelling and moaning sounds coming from within the elderly woman’s home.

The elderly woman, who is 81 and has dementia, had recently employed the carer, who was also her legal guardian, it was reported in The Australian.

“To see an elderly woman treated in this way was described by attending police as disgraceful,” said Police Inspector Donald Faulds.

Police praised concerned neighbour

Steve Leebold, the woman’s neighbour, alerted police, after hearing yelling and shouting coming from the woman’s home.

He told Nine News he could hear “sustained verbal abuse… through the double brick masonry wall.”

It was “disturbing,” he said. “I felt absolutely sick to my stomach.”

The victim is now in Wollongong Hospital receiving treatment for bruises, scratches and swelling on her face, according to the Sydney Morning Herald and alternative care is being arranged for her.

Ms Gawronski was arrested and has been charged with domestic assault and elder abuse. She appeared in Wollongong Bail Court on Saturday, and was granted bail with conditions that prevent her from approaching the elderly woman.

Neighbour praised for raising the alarm

Police and others have praised Mr Leebold for coming forward.

“From that information we were able to act, otherwise we may not have known about it and we wouldn’t have been able to assist the lady who was in trouble,” said Inspector Faulds.

Kerry Marshall, Manager and NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit, told HelloCare, “I am so pleased that the victim had a neighbor that called police which ultimately may have saved her life. As a community we all need to be more like the victim’s neighbor and speak up when we suspect or witness the abuse of an older person.

“There is still the attitude of ‘what happens behind closed doors stays being closed doors’, ‘it’s a family issue not our issue’ or ‘it’s none of our business’.”

Ms Marshall said it was also often difficult for older people to speak up if they are being abused.

“There are a lot of barriers that prevent older people seeking help, such as dependence on the abuser or advanced dementia which means they rely on others for help if they are being abused.”

Elder abuse is a major problem in our ageing society, she said.

“We are living in an ageing society with 1 in 10 older people experiencing abuse, which means we are all likely to know someone experiencing abuse.

If you are concerned, reach out to help

“If you are concerned about an older person, let them know you are there for them if they wish to talk or need help,” said Ms Marshall. “Encourage them to talk to someone they trust such as a family member, friend or GP.”

Here at HelloCare, our regular readers will know we have written about elder abuse before – and we reassert our belief that it is only by revealing cases of elder abuse, by discussing them, by raising awareness, and talking about prevention that can we begin to address the problem. This is yet another tragic case of an elderly person, defenceless and alone, being abused and mistreated in the most horrifying of circumstances, and we must do all we can to stop this scourge on our society.

The NSW Elder Abuse Helpline is available to anyone that suspects or has witnessed the abuse of an older person.

“Be the one who makes a difference,” says Ms Marshall.If you have witnessed or are experiencing elder abuse, there is help available.

The Elder Abuse Helpline numbers in every state are:

  • Queensland 1300 651 192
  • New South Wales 1800 628 881
  • Canberra 02 6242 5060
  • Victoria 1300 368 821
  • Tasmania 03 6237 0047
  • South Australia 1800 372 310
  • Northern Territory 1800 037 072
  • Western Australia’s 1300 724 679
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