Most elder abuse by family of victim
Sons and daughters of the elderly are the most likely to be abusive of their elderly parents. Often the perpetrators are motivated by money – more often than not they feel as though they are entitled to some of the victims’ hard earned cash. More than two thirds of the elderly victims own their own homes.
The scale of the problem has just been revealed with the release of a new report which analysed 755 older Australians who called the Seniors Rights Victoria helpline. The study found that women were more likely to be victims.
The main types of abuse uncovered were financial (37 per cent); emotional (35.8 per cent); physical (9.9 per cent), social (5.2 per cent) and sexual abuse (0.3 per cent).
For many, they were being neglected and not given the basics such as food, water and electricity.
For the ninety per cent of abusers who were the victim's adult child, their own issues such as drugs, alcohol addictions, gambling addictions, or mental health problems possibly played a part.
Living with the offender is the biggest risk factor for these older Australians.
"Approximately 28 per cent of the older people reporting abuse lived with a son or daughter," the report said. "[This is] in comparison to the wider population; less than 7 per cent of Australian older people live with an adult child."
When it comes to financial abuse, elderly people living alone were the most vulnerable.
Seniors Rights Victoria manager Jenny Blakey said, "There is a sense of entitlement to the older person's money or the sense that they will get the inheritance at some point."
"It's an issue that is worldwide, but in Victoria we only started promoting it as an issue in 2008. That means there is still a lot of people who don't know what it is."
A report released last year by La Trobe University revealed 344 reports of alleged unlawful sexual contact in aged care facilities in Australia in 2012. The report recommended that a "working with vulnerable people" check be implemented, in the same way that those working with children are checked. It also recommended more integration between care providers, police and support services.
Minister for Ageing Martin Foley said higher levels of abuse were expected as our population ages.
"This trend has been there a little while but this level of elder abuse is disturbing," he said. "It highlights the need of education and these awareness campaigns."
He said that the issue would be under examination by the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Australian Medical Association Victoria branch president Tony Bartone said doctors were always looking for signs of distress in their elderly patients, or the feeling that something it not quite right. Yet the latest report showed that just one per cent of elder abuse was detected by the victim’s doctor, and that training was inadequate in the area.
If you are concerned about elder abuse you may want information about the issue, or the opportunity to talk to someone independently about your concerns and the options for getting help. Find the numbers for each state and territory here.