Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. It can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect.
Responding to abuse in older populations requires a flexible and comunity based approach to accommodate different types of abuse, various cultural groupings and the remote communities that occur within Queensland.
While age discrimination or 'ageism' is one factor to be considered the existing discrimination faced by minority groups can compound the effects of ageism. Other factors such as language barriers, access to culturally appropriate services, lack of a support infrastructure within some community groups, and so on, make detecting and responding appropriately to abuse in these communities a challenge.
Rural and remote communities in Queensland present another set of challenges associated with distance, availability and access to services.
Signs that someone may be experiencing abuse
The person may be:
- afraid of someone close to them
- irritable, or shaking, trembling or crying
- depressed or withdrawn, talking of suicide
- uninterested in their usual interests
- presenting as helpless, hopeless or sad
- worried or anxious for no obvious reason
- reluctant to talk openly.
- change their sleeping patterns or eating habits
- have a rigid posture
- make contradictory statements not associated with mental confusion
- wait for another person to answer rather than answer questions themselves
- radically change their behaviour.
How to get help
If someone is experiencing abuse it is important that they know that there is a range of options available to them. These may included introducing support or counselling services, arranging respite care, spearatign the victim from the abuse situation, finding alternative accommodation or taking legal action.
The Elder Abuse Helpline provides free and confidential advice for anyone experiencing elder abuse or who suspects someone they know may be experiencing elder abuse. Call 1300 651 192 - 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
The Seniors' Legal and Support Service (SLASS) provides free legal advice, information and social work services for people over 60. Call 07 3214 6333 or visit the SLASS webpage on the Caxton Legal Centre Inc website for more information.
The Office of the Public Guardian is an independent statutory body that protects the rights and interests of vulnerable Queenslanders, including adults with impaired capacity to make their own decisions. They can investigate allegations of harm or abuse against people with impaired capacity. Call 1300 653 187 visit the OPG website.
In an emergency, if someone is in imminent danger call the police on triple zero (000).
The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (EAPU) promotes the right of older people to live free from abuse. The EAPU website provides a range of information and resources including training manuals, information sheets and links to relevant sites.