Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Nobody wants to believe we pick on our older people."

Elderly being abused By FAYE ADAMS - Eastern Courier Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A new case of an elderly person suffering abuse or neglect is discovered on average every two weeks.

And Counties Manukau Age Concern says that is just the tip of the iceberg in the district.

The charity aims to raise awareness about what might be a growing problem across the country as the population ages.

Last month Counties Manukau staff received 14 inquiries about suspected abuse cases - four were later confirmed.

Six hundred victims of elder abuse, which is classified as harm at the hands of someone they trust, were dealt with nationally by Age Concern in 2006.

Incidents can range from psychological or physical abuse to financial maltreatment or neglect.

Elder abuse and neglect coordinator Janenne Nicholson says many more go unreported, partly because it is still a taboo subject.

"It's very much like child abuse. It's not talked about.

"Nobody wants to believe we pick on our older people."

The organisation has likened the issue to domestic violence in the 1970s or child abuse in the 1980s, when the size and severity of the problem was questioned and some doubted it existed.

"It occurs behind closed doors," says Ms Nicholson. "

Counties Manukau has found one of the most prevalent forms of abuse is financial. That can be accompanied by psychological pressure.

The most common offenders are the older person's own children.

Abuse can be caused by a lack of understanding about legal responsibilities such as enduring power of attorney, or spending the parent's money in the belief "it's what they would have wanted".

Other factors are a lack of knowledge about a person's right to make decisions or their mental abilities.

Another frequent form of abuse is psychological, which can be verbal intimidation or harassment.

"A number of older people are told they are useless and a burden on society." They then tell us the same thing, that: 'I'm useless, I can't do this any more and I'm no good to my family'.

"Withholding affection happens. They are told they're not allowed to see their grandchildren any more."

Last year Age Concern took part in the first World Elder Abuse Day. It also runs an education programme for social workers, nurses or staff in residential facilities.

They highlight signs that might be masked by ageing, such as weight loss or bruises that might be mistaken for liver spots There is also hope that when baby boomers hit their senior years things may change.

"They are more likely to speak out," says Ms Nicholson. "This generation has come through the war and Depression, where you didn't complain because it didn't do any good."

For information, contact Age Concern field worker Yvonne Glassborow, phone: 279-4331.

Caption and bold mine for emphasis abridged for EA read it all here >>

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