THE Health Service Executive is investigating 1,760 cases of elder abuse, with 477 new referrals made in the first quarter of this year.
Due to the lack of a dedicated elder abuse officer in the southern region, whose work includes reporting numbers centrally, the HSE said the true figure is likely to be higher.
The HSE’s annual elder abuse report, set to be published next week, is expected to reveal the service received 2,046 referrals in 2010, up from 1,870 in 2009 and a similar figure in 2008. It will show neglect and financial abuse claims are on the rise, up 14% and 9% respectively.
Meanwhile, the owners of the Rostrevor nursing home, taken over this week by the HSE after a litany of abuse allegations, failed in their attempt to overturn a district court decision giving the HSE control over the home’s residents.
Circuit Court President Mr Justice Matthew Deery said the home was now being run by the HSE, which had been given interim powers to make decisions concerning the welfare of residents.
The Minister of State for Older people, Kathleen Lynch said the situation had once again highlighted the need for whistleblower legislation.
The minster said legislation is currently “in the drafting office”, and will cover care units as well as nursing homes.
She said there may also be a case for creating a separate unit within Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s office.
According to the HSE’s expert group, the National Elder Abuse Steering Committee, the issue of elder abuse is an area of “growing concern”. The committee said the number of cases reported is relatively small compared to the number that may be occurring.
According to the experts, elder abuse remains a “social taboo”, hidden behind closed doors and often shielded from public scrutiny.
In 2010, reported cases, which may include multiple abuses, included:
* physical abuse 291
* financial abuse 535
* psychological abuse 721
* neglect 511
Last year was the fourth year for which statistics were gathered. Since the service first began in 2007, the HSE has recorded in excess of 7,000 reports of alleged abuse. It employs 30 senior case workers nationwide to deal with referrals of elder abuse.
Last year, a comprehensive report by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP) found more than 10,000 older people were mistreated or neglected in their own homes.
The report, funded by the HSE, was the first ever into the prevalence rate of abuse and neglect experienced by older people living at home.
Professor Pearl Treacy, programme director of the NCPOP, said researchers are currently looking at how to undertake a similar report in the nursing home sector.
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