There has been a 7% increase in cases of elder abuse referred to the HSE last year, almost half of which was carried out by a son or daughter.
In total, when referrals of self-neglect only are excluded, there were 1,923 referrals to the HSE last year. There has been an increase of 30% in referrals since the first full year of data collection in 2008.
Psychological abuse was the most common type of abuse reported, at 36%, followed by financial abuse (25%), neglect (19%), and physical abuse (13%).
As has been the case in previous years, the public health nursing service is the main source of referral, with hospital/HSE staff and family the other major sources.
Two thirds of the alleged victims were female and there was a higher referral rate among those over 80 compared to 65 to 79-year-olds.
Most alleged abuse is perpetrated by a family member. There was an increase in cases of son or daughter being the alleged perpetrator, at 46%, while partner/husband/wife was implicated in 17% of referrals and “other relative” in 20% of cases.
The increase in elder abuse comes just after a Senior Help Line National survey found that 33% of people believe the elderly are regarded as a burden on society.
About 40% of respondents believe older people are ignored or not listened to, and one fifth of people questioned believe older people are undervalued.
The survey found that 25% of those aged over 55 felt older people were undervalued, while 45% in the same age category said they felt older people were seen as a burden on society and their views are ignored.
Age Action’s Eamon Timmins said that despite the increased level of reporting this year, a total of just 11,500 alleged elder abuse cases have been received by the HSE service since it began six years ago.
He pointed out that a 2010 report by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People found that 10,200 older people had been abused in the previous 12 months, and an estimated 18,700 had been abused since they turned 65.
“The 7% increase in the number of alleged cases of elder abuse referred to the HSE shows that more older people are unwilling to continue to suffer in silence, and there is greater public awareness of the HSE’s elder abuse service,” he said.
“It is clear from the report that the HSE is working with older people to provide the best solution for their situation, in line with their wishes.”
Kathleen Lynch, the minister for older people, urged anybody concerned about abuse to contact the HSE.
“It’s disturbing that a small number of older people should suffer abuse in this country. However, there are services available for those people and it is encouraging that a greater number of older people are coming forward each year to voice their concerns,” she said.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned about abuse to seek help and support from the HSE which has a dedicated service in place for older people experiencing abuse.”
Anyone who is being abused, or is concerned about abuse, should talk to someone they trust or they can contact the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850.
Alternatively, they can contact a health professional such as a GP, public health nurse, or social worker.
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