Institutional Abuse

There has been some publicity recently about neglect and abuse of older people in residential care facilities. These cases have prompted some serious inquires into the level of care provided. Institutional abuse, although much less common, can occur in places such as residential care homes, rehabilitation and continuing care wards, as well as in acute wards, day care, emergency and outpatient departments, and any other area where the care of older people is provided. It can include any of the other types of abuse:

  • Financial Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Emotional/psychological abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

Institutional abuse can happen because a particular residential care facilities policies or accepted practices within that organisation may causes harm to, or disregard a person’s rights. Examples include:

  • lack of respect for a person’s culture or customs
  • inappropriate rationing of continence products
  • inflexible routines e.g. breakfast at 8 am in the dining room.

Or it can be the perpetrated by a caregiver within a rest home.

What to do

If you suspect your loved one may be suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of their caregiver, a medical professional, or other staff member, talk about the situation with them and decide together what to do about it. They may wish to make a complaint themselves, with your support, or ask you to do so on their behalf. You should first talk to the manager of the facility about your concerns. If this does not produce satisfactory results, you have a few options.

You can contact :

  • the  Elder Abuse Response Service, a 24/7 helpline (0800 32 668 65) for free and confidential information and /or to connect you to a local elder abuse response service;
  • an elder abuse support service for free and confidential support, advocacy and information
  • The district health board. DHBs provide public funding to rest homes and can investigate any complaints about rest home care;
  • the Ministry of Health’s HealthCert team audits rest homes and provides access to a list of certified rest homes.;
  • the Health and Disability Commissioner reviews complaints about health and disability services.

Caregivers in a rest home where a resident has been abused or neglected may be breaking the law if they do not take reasonable steps to protect the resident from the abuse or neglect. Read more about this on our Reporting abuse of children and vulnerable adults page.

Abusive situations are damaging to all parties. If you are being abused you do not have to ‘put up with it’.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.