AS FEW as one-in-20 elderly victims of abuse report their attackers even though the majority of that abuse is taking place in their own home.
The statistics were revealed in a number of seminars taking place around the country to mark World Elder Abuse Day tomorrow.
Among the events was the Uncovering Elder Abuse seminar organised by the Health Service Executive in the Silversprings Hotel in Cork yesterday. Participants heard that elder abuse comes in a number of forms including physical, emotional and psychological.
The seminar was aimed at raising awareness of the tell-tale signs of elderly abuse among health service staff and those working in voluntary and statutory agencies providing services to older people.
The HSE has said it was difficult to determine the exact scale of the problem in Ireland, but research elsewhere indicated between 3% and 5% of older people living in the community suffer abuse at a given time.
That would mean that of the country’s 480,000 people who are over 65, up to 24,000 are the victims of abuse.
Yet the actual number of referrals of alleged abuse between January and April 2008 was just 524. Of those, 417 are still being investigated. Con Pierce, dedicated officer for elder abuse in the HSE South said: “Elder Abuse is not new. However, with increased awareness and changing social policy there is now a firm commitment to address this issue... This is a very sensitive issue, but there are now trained staff working in the HSE whose role it is to assess these cases and put in place the necessary steps to support and protect older people.”
In Galway, delegates were told that the vast majority of those suffering abuse, at least 70%, were women and that 83% of the abuse was taking place in the person’s own home. Bridget McDaid, elder abuse officer in the HSE West said 23 senior case workers with specific responsibility for responding to concerns of elder abuse are now in place nationally.
“Working closely with other HSE staff involved including doctors and nurses and statutory or voluntary agencies as appropriate, safety plans are developed and interventions such as increasing home support, providing counselling and... admission to respite care are put in place,” she said.
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