A new campaign to raise awareness of elder abuse has been launched by the Australian Human Rights Commission to mark the International Day of Older Persons (1 October 2021).
The video campaign raises awareness among people who interact with older Australians about the warning signs of elder abuse and where to get support.
Thousands of Australians experience elder abuse every year, and sometimes from those closest to them. Calls to the National Elder Abuse phone line increased by 87% between January 2021 to June 2021 compared to the previous six months.
“Elder abuse can happen to any older person, regardless of their background, and anyone who comes into contact with older people – be it friends, family, health professionals, hairdressers, librarians and many others – may be in a position to notice signs of elder abuse,” Age Discrimination Commissioner the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO said.
“Social isolation is a driver of elder abuse, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased social isolation for many older people. It has provided ripe conditions for elder abuse to flourish, while also making it harder to identify hidden abuse.”
Prior to the pandemic, the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimated between 2% and 14% of older Australians were experiencing elder abuse in any given year, with financial abuse the most prevalent form.
“A key risk factor for financial elder abuse is an increase in financial pressures on the children of older people, such as loss of employment and rising housing costs. COVID-19 may be exacerbating these pressures,” Dr Patterson said.
“I have heard troubling accounts from frontline workers of incidents including pressure to change wills, misuse of bank accounts and powers of attorney, cancellation of aged care packages and limiting of GP visits during the pandemic.
“It is essential that anyone who works, or comes into contact, with older people is equipped to prevent, identify and respond to elder abuse. I hope this campaign helps more people to recognise the ‘red flags’ and know that they can do something about it.
“Sometimes people are hesitant to report abuse because they feel it is not their place to intervene or they may simply not know where to get support.
“It is important to appreciate that an older person’s brief encounter with their local GP, hairdresser, librarian or home care service provider, could be one of few opportunities for elder abuse to be spotted and for the older person to be assisted in accessing information and support.
“Elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility and anyone who suspects elder abuse can call the National Elder Abuse phone line on 1800 ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374 for confidential information and support – it’s okay not to have all the answers.”
The National Elder Abuse phone line is Australia-wide, free and confidential. Call the National Elder Abuse phone line on 1800ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374 for information, support and referrals.