Elder abuse case numbers surge

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014

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There has been a sharp rise in the number of elder abuse cases referred to Age Concern Southland.

Manager Janette Turner said the number recorded from June 2013 to June 2014 was 263, up from 200 on the previous year.

While she believed the increase in referrals was because of campaigns for better awareness, it was still disheartening to discover that three-quarters of them had some foundation. The most common were of a physical or financial nature, Turner said.

Age Concern was reporting three or four cases of physical abuse to the police a month. It was most commonly carried out by the partners or spouses of the older person's children, she said.

"There is a lot of threatening and intimidation that goes on."

Financial abuse cases varied in severity, from children forcing their parents into care, selling the family home, and keeping the profits to themselves, to claiming their parents' pension, or even just using their parents' eftpos card for personal use when asked to go shopping on their behalf.

"It often starts off as 'this week I need a bottle of milk, I'll just get that while I'm here', to the next week, 'I need a few things', and eventually they are getting their entire groceries with mum or dad's money without telling them," Turner said.

Referrals came from members of the community, hospital or care workers, and sometimes the older people themselves. "We are seeing an increase in the number of self-referrals," she said.

Age Concern worked to deal with the problem at hand, and often referred families on for counselling, she said.

Cases found not to be elder abuse were often classified as complex welfare cases, which happened when older people were not able to access things like food or heating, or were missing out on entitlements, Turner said.

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