Recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAD) emphasises a simple but important message - that elder abuse is never okay. Held on June 15 each year, WEAD is timely reminder that we all have the right to live a life free from abuse, harm or neglect.
Only one in five cases of elder abuse is reported in Australia, meaning a significant majority of elders are unable or unwilling to speak out. Elder abuse can come in the form of sexual, financial, verbal, emotional/ psychological and social abuse. Financial abuse appears to be the most common form of abuse experienced by elderly people.
There are six commonly recognised categories of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse - Intentional infliction of physical pain, injury or physical intimidation.
- Sexual abuse - Unwanted sexual acts including sexual contact, rape, language or exploitative behaviours where the person’s consent has not been obtained, or has been obtained through coercion, or where the person is unable to consent due to cognitive incapacity.
- Financial abuse - Illegal or improper use or management of a client’s money, property or other financial resources.
- Neglect - The failure of a responsible person to provide the necessities of life such as adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or dental care to an older person or person with a disability. Neglect can be intentional or passive.
- Psychological/Emotional - The infliction of mental stress involving actions and threats that cause isolation, fear of violence, restricting or preventing social contact, deprivation, deliberately offensive, derogatory or vulgar language, and feelings of shame and powerlessness.
- Social - Prevention of social contact with family, friends or access to social activities.
It’s critical you seek help if you are the victim of elder abuse. A good place to start is speaking with a trusted friend or family member, should circumstances permit.
You can also contact the national elder abuse phone line: 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).
1800ELDERHelp automatically redirects callers seeking information or advice on elder abuse to their state or territory phone line service. If you require assistance in an emergency or life-threatening situation, you should dial 000.
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