Elder abuse: 5 steps you can take

Older man sitting on bed

Information source: Compass – guiding action on elder abuse 

It can be really worrying when someone you care about or someone you see is being hurt or abused. But your help can make a great difference to someone who is abused. 

If the older person feels supported and encouraged, they may feel stronger and more able to make decisions. If they feel judged or criticised, they could be afraid to tell anyone else about the abuse again. 

Don’t be put off or worry that you may be interfering or that the difficulties are a private matter. If your concern is genuine, no one will judge you for taking positive steps. It is unlikely you’ll make things ‘worse’ by expressing concern. 

What you can do: 5 steps you can take 

Witnessing abuse in any form can be confronting and upsetting. It may also leave you asking questions like ‘How can I help?’ or ‘Who should I turn to?’. Use the following five-step framework to help guide your response. 

1. Identify if abuse is taking place 

Get to know the signs that indicate abuse. Ask questions and gather information. Some questions you may want to ask include “Has anyone hurt you?”, “Are you frightened of anyone?” and “Do you feel safe staying where you are?”. 

2. Provide emotional support 

Listen to the older person and allow them the time they need to share their experience. Acknowledge what they are saying and validate their feelings. Maintain a calm appearance and be non-judgemental. Help identify the steps they can take, don’t make promises you can’t keep and maintain their confidentiality.  

3. Plan for safety 

Take steps to make the older person and others are safe if you feel they may be in immediate danger. 

4. Call 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) 

This free number will redirect you to an existing phone service near you. Alternatively, you can contact Caxton Legal Centre on (07) 3214 6333 or the EAPU on 1300 651 192. Even if you’re unsure of who to talk to, the most important thing is to take action. Help is free, confidential and easily accessible. 

5. Write it down 

Write down your concerns and actions in as much detail as you can. Try to include dates and locations along with what was said and seen. If the older person is aware of what is happening and refuses your assistance, write this too and make a note of your concerns. 

Responding to an emergency to help safeguard an older person and others should always come first. 

If it’s an emergency, call 000