Elder Abuse: Everyone’s business

15 June 2021

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – an official United Nations International Day acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse can be defined as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”.

The warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Unexplained changes to legal documents or finances are also of concern. Most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.

Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by making sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are in order. They must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to seek help.

What can you do if you suspect someone is experiencing elder abuse?

  • Invite them to talk in a place where they feel safe and listen to them.
  • Ensure them it is not their fault and respect their right to make their own decisions regarding their situation.
  • Always avoid being critical of the abusive person and keep providing support, even if they refuse help.

At Southern Cross Care Qld (SCCQ), we are encouraging all our staff to wear purple this week and talk about ways to prevent elder abuse within our society, and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. It’s time for us all to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities.

It’s good that the light is being shone on the issue of the elder abuse to ensure older people remain valued and respected within our society,” said Jodi Butler, Head of Aged Care Services at SCCQ.

If you are experiencing elder abuse, or concerned about an older person, call 1300 651 192 (Queensland only) to receive free anonymous and confidential assistance between 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. An experienced and trained operator will help you identify the signs of abuse and provide referrals to the relevant support services. In an emergency call triple zero (000).