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Monday 15 June was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and Dementia Australia marked it by urging all Australians to know the warning signs of elder abuse and to be alert to vulnerable Australians, including people who live with dementia.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said elder abuse is a serious issue that is likely to have become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Based on international indicators, it is likely that between two per cent and 14 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with the prevalence possibly higher during a time when people living with dementia were isolating at home,” Ms McCabe said.
“While not all people living with dementia will be vulnerable to elder abuse, COVID-19 and self-isolation may have increased the risk factors including financial stress within families with the loss of employment, and unchecked family conflict in confined living circumstances, similar to the experience of women and children who are experiencing increased family violence.1
“People living with dementia are already at an increased risk of elder abuse due to their cognitive impairment and dependency on others, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated this risk.”
An estimated 459,000 Australians live with dementia and 70 per cent live in the community.
Some of the warning signs of elder abuse to look out for include:
Unnecessary levels of isolation that go beyond government restrictions
Changes in the older person’s behaviour, with the person disengaging from family members, health, aged care and other services, or making threats of self-harm or expressions of hopelessness
The older person being prevented access to potential supports and modes of communication (such as phone or internet)
Large sums of money to pay for unspecified items are being requested or spent
“Often older people living with dementia, as with others who are abused, will not necessarily tell people what’s happening and for some, cognitive decline can impair their ability to raise the issue,” said Ms McCabe.
“That’s why we are calling on Australians to understand the warning signs and to look out for their family member, friend, neighbour or client, and to know who to call for help.”
If you know or suspect someone may be a victim of elder abuse, please contact your state or territory Elder Abuse Hotline or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
The Elder Abuse Hotlines across Australia are:
ACT – Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral Line – (02) 6205 3535
NSW – NSW Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 628 221
NT – Elder Abuse Information Line – 1800 037 072
QLD – Elder Abuse Prevention Unit – 1300 651 192
SA – Elder Abuse phoneline – 1800 372 310
TAS – Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline – 1800 441 169
VIC – Seniors Rights Victoria – 1300 368 821
WA – Elder Abuse Helpline – 1300 724 679
1 The Lookout, COVID-19 and Family Violence, http://www.thelookout.org.au/family-violence-workers/covid-19-and-family-violence/covid-19-and-family-violence-faqs