Elder Abuse during COVID-19: Will you help?

Information source: Compass – guiding action on elder abuse  

As Australia continues restrictions on activities to combat the pandemic, not every older person will be impacted the same way.  Older persons who have increased vulnerabilities including financial disadvantage, living remotely, care support needs, digital exclusion or cognitive decline may experience greater challenges in making it through this pandemic.  More specifically, some of the pre-existing risk factors for elder abuse may become amplified during the pandemic at the same time those noticing the signs of elder abuse are not there to see it.  This calls for greater awareness by everyone of what elder abuse is, how to prevent it and how to respond to it.  

In the next month Caxton Legal Centre’s Seniors Legal and Support Service will be running a social media campaign so that anyone who has concerns about an older person being abused can do something to help. You can help by liking and sharing campaign posts. If you think someone you know is being abused call Caxton Legal Centre on (07) 3214 6333 or the EAPU on 1300 651 192. 

What are elder abuse risk factors? 

Abuse doesn’t discriminate. People of all ages, ethnicity, environment and gender may be vulnerable or at risk. Although the factors below are not the cause of abuse, they can be helpful in understanding who is at greater risk of elder abuse. 

Environmental risk factors 

Physical and social isolation – Older people with small social networks, limited social participation or geographical isolation can struggle to find a support network. There may be no one to witness abuse. This risk is heightened when older people are encouraged to socially isolate as much as possible. 

Carer stress – May occur if a nominated carer is under stress to provide proper care for an older person. 

Living with the perpetrator – This includes but is not limited to living with a son, daughter, an in-law, extended family, a lodger/boarder or a carer. 

Economic pressures – Financial pressures or difficulties associated with home ownership (debt, upkeep, renting, social housing). As many people lose work through the pandemic economic pressures will place greater stress on households and increase the risk of elder abuse. 

Mental health issues – Mental health issues are a risk factor for both older people and those who perpetrate abuse. Social isolation is widely acknowledged to have a negative impact upon people’s mental health as our options for social interaction have diminished.