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The Effects of Elder Abuse

“Elder Abuse and Neglect is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

Definition adopted from WHO Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2002

Up to 70,000 older people will experience some form of elder abuse this year. Often the abuse experienced by an older person involves more than one type of abuse. Of those that are reported, approximately 75% involved psychological abuse, over half involved financial abuse. Approximately 15-20% involved physical abuse 10-15% involved neglect and 10-15% involved self-neglect. What is more shocking is that nearly 80% of older New Zealanders who are abused are harmed by family members, with 43% of victims living under the same roof as their abusers.

Elder abuse and neglect is unacceptable. Too many older people are being abused, living in fear of those they love and trust, having their finances or assets taken from them, or being neglected. It is imperative that everyone in New Zealand be made aware that this is happening and that we all take action to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

What is the effect of elder abuse?

Elder abuse affects not only the individual, but the family unit, and society as a whole. The personal losses associated with abuse can be devastating. Losses can include both tangible things, i.e. money, cars, homes, and also intangible things like independence, dignity and security. Over half of those who experience abuse suffer debilitating long term health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders and exacerbation of chronic health conditions as a direct result of the abuse.

Elder abuse also damages family relationships. Rifts can occur between siblings, spouses, children and parents etc. This creates a sense of isolation and loneliness for the older person. It is also a cause of great sadness and grief.

Elder abuse affects society as a whole. Older people who have been abused lose their ability to live independently and require ongoing support from the health sector, or residential care. For example financial abuse can erode assets and savings so that the older person may find it difficult to buy essential medications, or pay for eye, ears and teeth care. They may not be able to pay bills and may even lose their home and possessions.

The message is clear – elder abuse is not OK. If you see abuse, speak out against it

What to do if you think someone you know is the victim of elder abuse:

If you think someone is in danger call 111.  Ask for the Police.

Otherwise, you could call this helpline 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK). This is a free and confidential 24/7 help-line, registered nurses will be on the other end of the phone to listen and advise anyone who needs information or support about elder abuse. With translation services available to the free 24/7 helpline, and providers selected to ensure services are culturally responsive.

About Eve Williams

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

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