Mental bullying 'accounts for one in three cases of elder abuse'

Mental bullying 'accounts for one in three cases of elder abuse'

Psychological bullying accounted for more than a third of all cases of reported elder abuse last year.

A quarter of older people fell victim to financial abuse in 2011, with a fifth suffering neglect and 12% being physically attacked.

A total 2,302 allegations of elder abuse were reported to the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, a 9% jump from 2010.

Calls also included 429 people who raised concerns over self-neglect, while six were about organisational abuse from a financial institution or utility company.

Garda action was taken in 13% of cases.

Frank Murphy, of the national elder abuse steering committee, said the increase in calls showed people were more aware of the issue.

“This may be as a result of the significant efforts that the HSE, and its partners, have made in recent years in trying to increase awareness of the issue,” said Mr Murphy.

“It may also be a sign that people are having a growing confidence in the service.”

Figures revealed 1,555 cases of substantiated abuse since 2008, including 283 cases concluded last year.

Older women were most likely to be victims, with the alleged perpetrator a son or daughter in 44% of cases, followed by a spouse or another relative, both at 18%.

The alleged abuser and victim were living together in almost half of all cases.

The HSE said psychological abuse includes threats of harm, abandonment, humiliation, social deprivation and stopping contact with grandchildren – with financial abuse involving theft, fraud and pressure with wills.

Different categories of abuse

A four year analysis of data from 2008 – 2011 showed:

:: 395 allegations of physical abuse, mostly perpetrated by men on women. Gardai consulted 43% of cases and took legal action in 60.

:: 925 allegations of psychological abuse, most likely against a woman aged 65-79 years by a man. Gardaí consulted in 31% of cases and 12% resulted in legal action.

:: 367 cases of financial abuse, with legal action taken against 70. Outcomes included barring orders, wardship, criminal justice and domestic violence legislation.

:: 269 cases of neglect, with the over 80s most at risk. One in three cases also involved another abuse type, mainly psychological/neglect and financial/neglect.

:: A total of 1,739 referrals of self-neglect, with 48% from the south of the country.

:: In 2011 physical and financial abuse were reported most in Dublin mid Leinster, psychological abuse in the west, and self-neglect highest in the south.

A public health nurse was the main source of referral, followed by hospital or HSE staff or a family member

The HSE stressed all allegations of elder abuse are treated in confidence and, as much as possible, handled in a way that respects the wishes of the older person.

“The aim of the HSE service is to ensure the safety and well-being of an older person while providing support to stop the abusive behaviour,” said a spokeswoman.

“Anyone who is being abused, or is concerned about abuse, should talk to someone they trust.”

Age Action warned elder abuse remains under-reported in Ireland despite a rise in the numbers seeking help.

Spokesman Eamon Timmins said just 9,000 alleged cases were reported to the HSE in the last five years, while a separate 2010 report by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People found 10,200 older people had been abused in the previous 12 months.

He said fears that reporting abuse may result in an older person being admitted to a nursing home or may involve gardai were among the reasons why people will not seek help.

“However, today’s report shows that the Gardai were consulted in just 15% of cases last year and only 7% of abuse victims were admitted to nursing homes,” said Mr Timmins.

“In the vast majority of cases the HSE work with families to resolve issues, involving outcomes which include monitoring, home support, counselling and mediation.”

Age Action urged older people being abused to seek help and encouraged the public to make themselves aware of the possible warning signs of abuse.

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