TOUGH new laws are needed to crack down on the growing problem of elder abuse according to national lobby group for the aged, Age Action Ireland.
The call for new legislation comes in the wake of revelations that officials investigating cases of elder abuse have seen 1,500 referrals in the past year.
The statistics, published last week by the Health Service Executive (HSE), show about 10% of these cases have led to consultation with gardaí.
Speaking on World Elder Abuse Day yesterday, Age Action chief executive Robin Webster said a comprehensive package of measures was needed to protect thousands of vulnerable adults and end their silent suffering.
“We have real concerns that the law is not there to protect vulnerable adults of any age,” Mr Webster said.
Mr Webster said legislation was also needed to establish the rights to core services for older people and to impose duties on statutory bodies to provide services.
“The Government’s planned Positive Ageing Strategy must include all Government departments, statutory authorities and local authorities,” Mr Webster said.
Age Action said the public had a key role to play in tackling elder abuse by reporting cases of abuse, or suspected abuse, to the HSE’s 32 recently appointed elder abuse officers.
“When it comes to elder abuse there can be no room for complacency. Doing nothing is never an option,” Mr Webster said.
Analysis of the cases referred to the health authorities is continuing, but it is understood that 83% of referrals involved people living at home, while in 96% of all cases the alleged abuser was a family member.
Alleged psychological abuse accounted for 29% of cases, followed by neglect (21%), financial (20%) and physical abuse (17%). Community health care staff were the main referrers, doing so in 34% of cases. Family members made just 11% of referrals.
Mr Webster said the substantial workload facing the HSE elder abuse staff was evidence of the scale of the problem in Ireland. Figures released by the HSE last week show they dealt with 523 cases during the first four months of 2008, compared to 923 for all of 2007.
International research indicates that between 3% and 5% of the older population have experienced elder abuse, suggesting that between 14,000 and 24,000 older people have been abused in Ireland.
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