Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

10,000 'victims of elder abuse'

Thousands of pensioners are subjected to abuse, largely by family members or carers, new research has shown

More than 10,000 pensioners are estimated to be victims of elder abuse or neglect, research has revealed.

The study showed 2.2% of people aged over 65 have experienced some form of abuse, whether sexual, psychological, financial or neglect. Adult children, a husband or wife and people who act as carers are among those most likely to be responsible.

Adult children were found to be responsible for 50% of abuse cases, while 2% could be attributed to care workers. More than a third of cases occurred when the victim lived with the abuser.

Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said that while the figures were typical, it is feared only one in five cases is reported to authorities.

"These figures confirm what we've always known, that elderly abuse is widespread and on a par with most developed countries," he said. "But only a fraction of people are reporting it - that's an international trend - and that's very sad.

"Some people believe that elder abuse is just one of the downsides of growing old but I would urge them, you don't have to put up with that pain and suffering and the indignity that comes with such abuse."

Mr Timmins said a vast majority of elder abuse is carried out by family members, which is why people fail to report it. "Victims do not want the shame of reporting a family member and there is also a fear that the guards might become involved, or that the person who is their carer might be taken away," he said.

The research, which was published in the latest edition of Oxford University journal Age and Ageing, was compiled following face-to-face interviews with 2,021 elderly people with an average age of 74. Five types of abuse were measured - psychological, physical, sexual, financial and neglect.

People aged over 80 were found to have experienced the highest level of mistreatment. Dublin-based geriatrician Professor Des O'Neil warned financial mistreatment, the most prevalent form of abuse, is often hardest to detect.

He said: "Not only is it the form that health and social care workers are likely to have the least expertise in detection, assessment and management, but also one where banks, government agencies involved in the payment of welfare and pension benefits and the insurance industry bear a major responsibility in developing mechanisms for the prevention, detection and management of financial elder abuse."

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