A Western Australian elder abuse hotline has reported a sharp increase in calls, particularly calls in relation to financial abuse.

The Advocare help line’s biggest increase in call numbers was seen in the last two months, when more than 200 calls were received, twice the numbers of calls received during the same period last year, according to reports.

Around one-third of calls – 30 percent – related to financial abuse, with roughly the same proportion – 32 per cent – relating to psychological abuse. More than 11 per cent of calls related to neglect.

It’s truly awful to think of elderly people being either physically abused, made to feel ashamed or guilty, or having their life savings taken from them – yet it does happen, and we believe it’s important the topic is discussed. Only by acknowledging there is a problem can we begin to find solutions.

Media reports give rise to growing awareness of elder abuse

The increase in calls to Advocare may reflect a growing awareness of elder abuse in the community, following the recent reporting of a number of high-profile cases in the media.

It’s likely that, at least in part, we are seeing an increase in financial abuse because house prices have risen beyond the reach of many throughout parts of Australia, making adult children impatient to receive their inheritance from their elderly parents.

Whatever the cause of elder abuse, it is never acceptable, and we must be doing all we can to stamp it out.

Elder abuse a growing problem

Tragically, elder abuse is a growing problem, not only in Australia but world-wide. According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 15.7 per cent of people aged 60 years and over may have experienced elder abuse. But the actual percentage may be higher as it’s widely believed elder abuse is under-reported.

In June last year, the Australian Law Reform Commission issued a report on elder abuse, making 43 recommendations, such as improving responses to elder abuse in aged care, training bank staff to identify elder abuse, and ensuring that national and state laws are in line.

Yet, so far, few of the reforms have been implemented.

What is elder abuse?

The WHO defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”.

There are many different types of elder abuse.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse occurs when someone uses another person’s money or assets improperly. Examples of financial abuse include: withholding money, or failing to obtain consent before spending another person’s money.

Neglect

Neglect can be a form of elder abuse. It may take the form of withholding basic needs, such as care, food, shelter, clothing, emotional support, or medical or dental care.

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse means inflicting mental anguish on someone, which can make them feel powless or ashamed.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse refers to unwanted sexual behaviour, including rape, indecent assault, harassment, and using sexually offensive language.

Social abuse

Social abuse occurs when someone restricts another person’s social contact.

Physical abuse

Deliberately causing physical pain or injury, physical coercion and physical restraint constitutes physical abuse.

What can you do?

If you are concerned that someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, or if you are a victim yourself, you can contact the appropriate elder abuse helpline below.

Australian Capital Territory

Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral and Information Line (APRIL) – 02 6205 3535

New South Wales

NSW Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 628 221

Northern Territory

Elder Abuse Information Line – 1800 037 072

Queensland

Elder Abuse Prevention Unit – 1300 651 192

South Australia

Aged Rights Advocacy Service – 08 8232 5377

Elder Abuse Phoneline – 1800 372 310

Tasmania

Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 441 169

Victoria

Seniors Rights Victoria – 1300 368 821

Western Australia

Elder Abuse Helpline – 1300 724 679

Note: The image used to illustrate this article does not represent actual people or events.

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