More abused old folk seek help

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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Elderly victims of abuse are increasingly seeking help in South Canterbury.

A growing number of the region's elderly residents are calling on the Elder Abuse and Protection Services at Family Works. This happens particularly after they have suffered financial or psychological abuse.

However, the increase was not necessarily an indication that the problem was growing, elder protection co-ordinator Geeta Muralidharan said.

Instead, she said the increase was possibly because of greater awareness.

"The increase in publicity around this problem has raised the awareness of the community, which has resulted in more referrals being received from a variety of sources, including family members, [the] South Canterbury District Health Board, rest homes, community services and self-referrals."

The increase in self-referrals had been particularly noticeable, Mrs Muralidharan said.

Financial and psychological abuse were the primary problems being reported.

"Financial abuse is 39 per cent of all referrals received and psychological abuse [is] 37 per cent."

Mrs Muralidharan works with about 50 significant cases of abuse each year.

She said "active neglect" by a person's partner was another growing trend.

"The majority of cases referred to this service are by family members who realised something is not quite right in the lives of their parents.

"In some of these cases, earlier reporting of these concerns would have prevented the loss of money, savings and property.

"Generally, the victims of such financial abuse are older people who live alone or have limited family and community support, which can be a lifestyle choice for some."

Of the cases reported, 10 per cent of the victims had no support from family or services in the community, Mrs Muralidharan said.

"It is often the case that the victims of elder abuse and neglect are anxious, have trust issues and are resistant to disclosing information, especially if the abuse has been perpetrated by a family member.

"We have a number of cases every year where an older person has been severely abused financially and emotionally by their adult son or daughter. The consequences of this level of abuse on the older person resulted in them living in fear and isolation, with self-neglect and deep mistrust of people in general."

She said it was important for people to report cases of abuse, no matter what their relationship was to the victim.

"Let's say no to elder abuse and neglect. Let's value and respect older people. As a community this is all of our responsibility."

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- The Timaru Herald

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