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Families responsible for 3/4 of elder abuse reports

Media release

Age Concern New Zealand

June 9, 2014

Families are responsible for three quarter of elder abuse reports in New Zealand

People must not turn a blind eye if they suspect an older person is being abused or neglected says Age Concern, the organisation representing the needs and interests of older people in New Zealand.

Robyn Scott, Chief Executive for Age Concern New Zealand, says; people need to pay more attention to the signs and realise that elder abuse is happening in their communities.

“It is vital people speak out if they believe an older person may need help. We urge people to contact their local Age Concern centre or the local authorities if they suspect an older person is being abused or neglected.

“Don't let fear of meddling in someone else's business stop you from reaching out and helping someone. It is time to stop elder abuse and if we all pull together and decide to take an active role, we can achieve this,” she said.

Age Concern’s Elder Abuse Awareness Week runs from on June 15-22 and works to remind New Zealanders that no older person should ever be abused.

The purple-ribbon campaign marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 and aims to inform people that elder abuse - including financial, psychological, physical abuse and neglect - is a widespread issue in New Zealand.

Age Concern also works in communities to educate people about the signs and effects of abuse to help prevent it from happening and how to challenge disrespectful attitudes towards older people.

Elder abuse is fuelled by ageist attitudes and lack of respect for older people. Age Concern’s elder abuse and neglect prevention (EANP) teams work closely with older people and their families to resolve issues of abuse and ensure it does not reoccur.

Mrs Scott says that nationwide EANP services receive more than 2000 referrals each year.

“That is an average of eight referrals per working day about older people suspected of being abused or neglected. In three quarters of these cases, abuse or neglect is confirmed,” she said.

“We know that's just the tip of the iceberg. But it doesn't have to be this way. The more people understand about elder abuse and what they can do to stop it, the better.”

In New Zealand the most commonly reported types are financial abuse and psychological abuse.

"Some people think that because someone is old it doesn’t matter what happens to them anymore or they don’t need money to spend,” Mrs Scott said.

“They make decisions for the older person without even asking them what it is they want. Or, they ridicule them about the decisions they do make. Sometimes, they pressure older people into doing things they don’t really want to do – like giving a loan, selling their house or letting a family member move in with them for free. Attitudes like these show a lack of respect for the older person, for their quality of life and for their needs.”

Mrs Scott said three quarters of elder abuse and neglect in New Zealand occurs at the hands of family members. About half of abusers are adult children and about half of the abused elders are over 80-years-old.

“This is one of the reasons it stays hidden. Many older people feel ashamed their own flesh and blood is treating them badly, so they won't talk about it,” she said.

“We know that family are very precious to older people, and try to get a win-win result when there are difficulties with family relationships. We help people recognise that older people have a lot to contribute and are very valuable members of families and the community.”

Ends

Visit www.ageconcern.org.nz for the contact details of the nearest Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service.


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