15 June marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), officially recognised by the United Nations in 2011. On this day individuals and organisations worldwide highlight the importance of the rights of older people, as prevention against the mistreatment and harm occurring in their communities.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect. Rates of elder abuse are under reported, but the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates up to 14 per cent of older people in Australia are affected.
“It is important to raise awareness about elder abuse, to ensure older people are respected and included within our community,” said Damian Foley, Chief Operating Officer at Ozcare
“There is no excuse for elder abuse.”
The warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Unexplained changes to legal documents or finances are also of concern. Most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.
Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by making sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are in order. They must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to seek help.
If you are experiencing elder abuse, or concerned about an older person, you can get help by calling the Elder Abuse Helpline. Call 1300 651 192 (Queensland only) to receive free anonymous and confidential assistance between 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. An experienced and trained operator will help you identify the signs of abuse and provide referrals to the relevant support services. In an emergency call triple zero (000).