Abuse of elderly not always intended

NATASHA THYNE
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014

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Not visiting your elderly parents could be a form of elder abuse, according to geriatric specialists.

A discussion about what elder abuse is took place yesterday at a forum in Timaru organised by the South Canterbury District Health Board and Family Works Elder Protection Service, to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Week.

The keynote speaker, social gerontologist Dr Sally Keeling, said there was a fine line between positive and negative behaviour towards elders, and while it may come from good intentions, some behaviour could be easily misconstrued as abuse.

An example regarded financial management, as family members told each other pin numbers, or the older parents wanted to give money and pay for things.

She also talked about not wanting to be over protective, as there could be "too much of a good thing".

Keeling said she wanted to "turn the topic around" and look at "what makes for good support and care?"

She said 75 per cent of elder abuse reported was a result of family care, as 80 per cent of all help, care and support came from family.

"Most of the time family care makes for a good life."

She shared two scenarios from her own experience. One was about her elderly parents being looked after by her and her brothers and sisters, with an advanced care plan the whole family discussed together.

The other was a blended family with no shared children and no care plan or discussion about caring for elderly parents when one got ill, "a stark contrast" to the first scenario.

The panel discussion included geriatric specialists Dr Sires Bharatham, Dr Stan Smith and Dr Harbans Bhakri, AT and R Timaru Hospital worker Sally Parker, Presbyterian support representative Carolyn Cooper and Barbara Fleming from the Alzheimer's Society South Canterbury.

Other events during the week include the "it's all about respect" programme, with primary school pupils visiting rest homes to teach the children to respect and value their elders.

Geeta Muralidharan, from Family Works Elder Protection Service, has also been raising awareness in rest homes, talking to residents about safety.

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- South Canterbury

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