2,400 reports of elderly abuse last year

More than 2,400 complaints of elder abuse were received by health chiefs last year, a 30% increase in six years.

The Health Service Executive said its hotlines saw a 1% fall in the number of reports, compared with 2012, but warned of a deepening crisis since records began in 2008.

Older people are most likely to suffer psychological abuse, its report stated, with 33% of all complaints related to emotional bullying, intimidation or harassment.

Health chiefs said most abuse is perpetrated by a family member — a son or daughter, as in 45% of complaints; while one fifth involved a partner, husband or wife; and 15% of complaints were linked to other relatives.

Just over a quarter of complaints related to financial abuse, 21% to neglect, and 14% to physical abuse.

The HSE’s sixth review of referrals of alleged abuse of older people recorded 2,437 cases, but more than 500 of these related to self-neglect.

Frank Murphy, chairman of the national elder abuse steering committee, urged people to contact health professionals if they are concerned about loved ones or people for whom they are providing care.

“There is strong documentary evidence that a certain proportion of older people are at risk of being abused and it is vital that older people are protected from harm in the community and in residential settings,” he said. “We would encourage anyone who has a concern about abuse of an older person to contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker.”

The HSE said most referrals of suspected abuse come from public health nurses, with hospital staff and family the other major sources.

The report also revealed that two thirds of the alleged victims were women and there was a higher referral rate among the over-80 group compared to those aged 65-79. Men in the 65-74 bracket are more likely to be referred, while 55% of females referred are in the over-80 category, it said.

The HSE warned that elder abuse — described as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, causing harm or distress or violating their rights — can take place in any context.

It said elder abuse may occur when people live alone, in care homes, hospitals, home support services or when they are in public.

In 2013, 8,695 people attended elder abuse training/awareness programmes/sessions over the course of the year, an increase of over 2,000 on 2012. Just under half (44%) were HSE staff, while 34% came from the private sector and 22% from the voluntary and community sector.

If a person is being abused, or if someone is concerned about abuse, or suspect that someone they know is being abused, they should contact the HSE Information Line: 1850 24 1850. Alternatively, they can contact a health professional such as GP, public health nurse or social worker.

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