The NSW Elder Abuse Helpline provides information, support and referrals to any caller who suspects, witnesses or is experiencing elder abuse. The Helpline was established as part of the NSW Ageing Strategy. Helpline consultant, Kyra Hazelman, explains what elder abuse is.
Elder abuse can be defined as ‘a single act or lack of appropriate action occurring within a relationship, where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.’ World Health Organisation (WHO- 2002)
We recognise 5 abuse types. They include psychological abuse (including social isolation), financial, physical and sexual abuse, as well as intentional or unintentional neglect.
1 in 20 older people will experience some form of abuse and sadly most go unreported. The outcomes, for many are devastating. It’s crucial that everyone is aware of what elder abuse is and what to do if you or someone you know is ever in a situation of abuse. Some forms of elder abuse can be criminal and can be reported to NSW Police.
The Helpline has received over 4000 calls over the 3 years it has been in operation. We receive calls from anyone, including older people experiencing abuse, family, friends, neighbours or professionals who suspect, witness or have had a disclosure of abuse from an older person living in the community.
Some examples of abuse include:
- Screaming; threatening, harrassing or blackmailing you with nursing home placement or withdrawing contact with grandchildren
- Calling you names or treating you like a child
- Preventing you from seeing family or friends or going out to soical events
- Theft of your property or money
- Abuse of Powers of Attorney or financial management arrangements
- Being coerced or pressured into changing your will or signing over assets or money
- Being pushed, punched, slapped, pinched or bitten
- Rough handling; restraining, i.e. being locked in a room or tied to a chair
- Overuse or misuse of medication
- Someone blocking services from assisting you
- Being under or over medicated
- Not being provided with adequate food, medicine, shelter, adequate or clean clothing, heating/cooling or medical or dental care.
- Non-consensual sexual contact, language or exploitative behaviour
- Cleaning or treating genitals roughly or inappropriately
- Enforced nudity without your consent
Where can you go for help?
If you are concerned that someone is at immediate risk, contact emergency services by calling triple zero – 000.
If you are experiencing abuse or you’re worried about an older person you can contact the Helpline on 1800 628 221. A consultant on the Helpline can listen to your concerns and help you explore your options. You could also speak to your GP or your service provider if you’re receiving in-home services, or a trusted family member or friend.
Elder abuse is often complex and can be difficult to speak up about. Time and support can make it easier. If you are concerned about someone try and maintain an ‘open door’ and let them know you are there when and if they are ready to talk.
When responding to elder abuse, professionals should ensure they refer to their organisation’s policies and procedures, including the NSW Interagency Policy on preventing & responding to elder abuse 2015 & escalate concerns to a manager. The Helpline acts as a “virtual colleague” and will assist you to develop an appropriate response.
Kyra Hazelman is a Consultant with the NSW Elder Abuse helpline and Resource Unit.