One tragic corollary of the COVID-19 emergency is that elder abuse, a form of family violence, is likely to increase during the pandemic. In a media alert issued last week, Seniors Rights Victoria manager, Jenny Blakey, warned that major stress being caused by the drastic and unprecedented changes to our social fabric could lead to an increase in elder abuse.
Seniors Rights Victoria is one of the principal programs of COTA Victoria. It provides advocacy, specialist legal services, community education and a Helpline (1300 368 821) for people who may be experiencing elder abuse.
Ms Blakey said that in the current economic climate, job losses and the inability to keep up with rent or mortgage payments will drive many people to move in with parents or other relatives out of financial necessity.
‘Depending on family relationships and arrangements this may work out. However, at Seniors Rights Victoria we deal with cases that have resulted in elder abuse.’
Elder abuse and its warning signs
‘Elder abuse is any mistreatment of an older person by another person with whom they have a relationship of trust. Often that person is a family member or carer, but it could be a friend or neighbour on whom they depend.’
While elder abuse manifests in different forms, each is a way for another person to take over or control the life or property of an older person, Ms Blakey said. Some forms of elder abuse are criminal acts, for example, acts involving theft or fraud. Elder abuse is a lack of respect and violates an older person’s basic right to feel safe.
There are often warning signs of elder abuse. For example, the older person may:
- seem fearful, worried or withdrawn
- seem nervous or anxious with certain people
- have unexplained injuries such as bruises, broken bones, sprains or cuts
- have poor hygiene or personal care
- lack health items they need, like hearing aids, dentures or medications.
Other warning signs include:
- family and or friends being denied access to the older person
- unpaid bills or unusual activity in bank accounts or on credit cards
- changes to a will, title or other documents
- disappearance of the older person’s possessions.
Often, Seniors Rights Victoria first hears about an instance of elder abuse when a family member or a friend raises concerns for a person’s welfare.
Anyone who thinks they – or someone they know – may be experiencing or at risk of elder abuse can call the Seniors Rights Victoria Helpline on 1300 368 821 for free, confidential advice and support.
Seniors Rights Victoria also offers a range of resources on preventing and tackling elder abuse.
- For older people, the Plan for Your Safety Help Sheet has tips on improving your safety and planning for emergencies
- For service providers, the Safety Planning with Older People Tip Sheet guides workers on how to develop a personalised safety plan for an older person at risk.
- For concerned friends and family, Concerned about an Older Person? is a detailed guide to understanding elder abuse.
We can also supply printed copies (with a charge for bulk quantities). For more information call our Helpline 1300 368 821 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.