Sunday 23 November 2014

HSE reveals campaign of cruelty against elderly by family members

Published 02/09/2014 | 02:30

The HSE has revealed the extent of elder abuse. Photo: Getty Images.
The HSE has revealed the extent of elder abuse. Photo: Getty Images.

Frail elder-abuse victims are being pushed, shoved, bitten or kicked - and their attackers in many cases are those closest to them, a new report has revealed.

Others are being burned or scalded while some have their hearing or walking aids taken from them as part of a campaign of cruelty.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) documented the horrors perpetrated in 137 confirmed cases of physical abuse of the elderly which came to the notice of authorities - but many others are still suffering in silence.

Psychological abuse led to victims being stopped from seeing people who care for them, while the elderly were also victims of financial swindles after being forced or misled into giving money and possessions away against their will.

Others had documents stolen or were prevented from accessing their assets, the HSE's report on elder abuse for 2013 revealed.

The HSE received 2,437 referrals of elder abuse during the year, a marginal decline of 1pc since 2012. However, cases have risen 30pc since 2008.

When self-neglect only is excluded, there were 1,900 referrals, with psychological abuse the most common type at 33pc, followed by financial abuse, neglect and physical abuse.

Public health nurses made the most reports, followed by hospital staff and family. In 19pc of cases, the victim themselves made a complaint.

The report shows that two- thirds of the victims were female and there was a higher referral rate among elderly people over the age of 80, compared to 65 to 79-year-olds.

Younger men, aged 65-74 years, are now more likely to come to notice, while one in two women are over the age of 80.

The report said most alleged abuse is perpetrated by a family member, most likely a son or daughter. It can also involve a partner, husband or wife or another relative.

More than two-thirds who experience physical or psychological abuse live with the perpetrator and this rises to 76pc in cases of neglect.

Evidence

Frank Murphy, chair of the National Elder Abuse Steering Committee, said: "There is strong documentary evidence that a certain proportion of older people are at risk of being abused and it is vital that older people are protected.

"We would encourage anyone who has a concern about abuse of an older person to contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker. Whilst most older people do not experience abuse, for those that do it can manifest in different ways.

"Abuse can take place in any context; it may occur when an older person lives alone or with a relative, it may occur within residential or day-care settings, in hospitals, home support services and other places assumed to be safe, or in public places."

If a person is being abused, is concerned about abuse or suspects it is going on, they should contact the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850. Alternatively, they can contact a health professional such as GP, public health nurse or social worker.

Irish Independent

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