Recognising Elder Abuse
The NSW Interagency Protocol for responding to abuse of older people 2007 defines elder abuse as:
Abuse of older people is any behaviour that causes physical, psychological, financial or social harm to an older person. The abuse can occur within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust between the older person who has experienced abuse and the abuser. Abuse may involve a single act, repeated behaviour or a lack of appropriate action. It may occur when a vulnerable older person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. Many forms of abuse of older people are crimes.
In the abuse of older people the relationship between the abuser and the older person is usually one of trust and mutual dependency.
Older people can be at an increased risk of abuse particularly if they:
- Rely on others for physical care and support
- Live alone
- Are socially isolated
- Have physical or cognitive impairments
Warning signs of possible abuse could include:
- Physical: Bruising, pressure sores, missing teeth or hair, burns, evidence of sexual assault including bruising of genitals, fear of perpetrator
- Psychological: depression, fear, confusion, disrupted sleep or appetite
- Financial: lack of money for basic expenses, wanting to make sudden changes to Wills or Powers of Attorney, money missing from a bank account
- Neglect: inappropriate clothing, dirty or unkempt appearance, missing aids, dehydration or malnutrition.