Protecting Older People from Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?
What forms can Elder Abuse take?
How to recognise if abuse is happening to you?
How to recognise if an Older Person is being abused?
Who might abuse?
Where might abuse occur?
Abuse in Residential or Hospital Care
What to do if Elder Abuse is suspected and where to go?
What should be expected once a suspected case of Elder Abuse is reported?
Contact our services for help and advice

Elder Abuse Advert Read or download information on Elder Abuse and what to do if you are worried - Open Your Eyes

 

 

What is Elder Abuse?

Most older people do not experience abuse. But, unfortunately, there are ways in which an older person can be harmed or abused by others. An older person may also experience more than one form of abuse at any given time.

Elder abuse is defined as -

''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 or violates their human and civil rights.'' (Protecting our Future, Report of the Working Group on Elder Abuse, September 2002)

65 years of age is taken as the point beyond which abuse may be considered to be elder abuse.

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What forms can Elder Abuse take?

There are several forms of abuse, any or all of which may be carried out as the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance.

  • Physical abuse, including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.
  • Sexual abuse, including rape and sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the older adult has not consented, or could not consent, or into which he or she was compelled to consent.
  • Psychological abuse, including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or material abuse, including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Neglect and acts of omission, including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
  • Discriminatory abuse, including ageism, racism, sexism, that based on a person's disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

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How to recognise if abuse is happening to you?

Psychological Abuse
Consider the possibility of psychological abuse if:

  • You are made feel afraid in your living accommodation
  • You are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • You are made feel tearful and agitated
  • You experience loss of appetite and/or disrupted sleep

Neglect
Consider the possibility of neglect if:

  • You are not receiving adequate liquids to drink or food to eat
  • Your clothes are not being washed when required.
  • You are not being provided with appropriate clothing for the weather conditions
  • You are being denied the aids you needs, e.g. glasses, hearing aid, dentures etc.
  • You are being left alone for long periods when you cannot move about easily or prepare meals with out assistance
  • You are bed / chair bound and you are experiencing pressure sores that are not being attended to even when brought to someone's attention

Financial Abuse
Consider the possibility of financial abuse if:

  • Someone else has access to your accounts without your full permission
  • You feel pressured to allow someone else access to your accounts
  • Someone else makes decisions about your money without speaking with you first
  • You feel you have lost all control over your money
  • Your money is being spent by someone else for things other than your bills, clothes, food, etc.
  • You feel pressured to give money to someone else

Physical Abuse
Consider the possibility of physical abuse if:

  • You have been treated roughly, enough to leave marks or bruises
  • You have been treated violently which caused broken bones, sprains, dislocations or other injuries
  • Someone has inflicted pain on you

Sexual Abuse
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse if:

  • Someone has forced you to be intimate with them without your consent

If you are experiencing any of the feelings or effects outlined below then you may need to speak with your GP, Public Health Nurse or Senior Case Worker or contact the HSE Information line on 1850 24 1850.


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How to recognise if an Older Person is being abused?

Most older people do not experience abuse. But, there are many ways in which an older person can be harmed or abused. An older person may experience more than one form of abuse at any given time

If you suspect that an older person may be experiencing any of the feelings or effects outlined below then you may need to speak with a GP, Public Health Nurse or Senior Case Worker or contact the HSE Information line on 1850 24 1850.

'Protecting our Future', the report of the Working Group on Elder Abuse, published in September 2002, outlined the following possible indicators of elder abuse.
Psychological Neglect Financial Physical Sexual

Demoralisation

Depression

Feelings of hopelessness / helplessness

Disrupted appetite / sleeping pattern

Tearfulness

Excessive fears

Agitation

Resignation

Confusion

Unexplained paranoia

 

Dehydration

Malnutrition

Inappropriate clothing

Poor hygiene

Unkempt appearance

Under/over medicated

Unattended medical needs

Exposure to danger / lack
of supervision

Absence of required aids, including reading glasses, dentures

Pressure sores

Unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills

Unexplained or sudden withdrawal
of money from accounts

Funds diverted for someone else’s use

Being charged for unsolicited work or significantly overcharged for work done

Unexplained disappearance of possessions

No funds for food, clothes, services

Refusal to spend money

Disparity between living conditions and assets

Extraordinary interest
by family member in person’s assets

Making dramatic financial decisions

Bruises or cuts, particularly to mouth, lips, gums, eyes, ears)

Abrasions

Scratches

Burns (inflicted by cigarettes, matches, rope, iron, immersion in hot water)

Sprains

Dislocations

Fractures

Hair loss (possible hair-pulling)

Missing teeth

Eye injuries e.g.
black eye

Trauma about the genitals, breasts, rectum, mouth

Injury to face, neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, buttocks

Presence of sexually transmitted disease

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Who might abuse?

A wide range of people may abuse older people, including relatives and family members, professional staff, paid care workers, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and associates.

Where might abuse occur?

Abuse can take place in any context. It may occur when an older person lives alone or with a relative; it may occur within residential or day-care settings, in hospitals, home support services and other places assumed to be safe, or in public places.

Patterns of abuse and abusing vary and reflect different circumstances:

  • Long-term abuse, in the context of an ongoing family relationship, such as domestic violence or sexual abuse between spouses or generations.
  • Opportunistic abuse, such as theft occurring because money has been left around.
  • Situational abuse, which arises because pressures have built up and/or because of the difficult or challenging behaviour of the older person.
  • Neglect of a person's needs because those around him or her are not able to be responsible for their care; for example if the carer has difficulties because of debt, alcohol or mental health problems.
  • Unacceptable 'treatments' or 'programmes', which include sanctions or punishment, such as the withholding of food and drink, seclusion, the unnecessary and unauthorized use of control and restraint, or the over, or under, use of medication.
  • Racist, ageist and other discriminatory practices by staff, including ageism, racism and other discriminatory practices, which may be attributable to the lack of appropriate guidance.
  • Misappropriation of benefits and/or use of the person's money by other members of the household or by care staff.
  • Fraud or intimidation in connection with wills, property or other assets

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Abuse in a Residential / Acute Setting

If you are being abused, are concerned about abuse or suspect that someone you know is being abused in a residential or acute (hospital) care setting then you should contact

1. Your relative or friend
2. Your GP / visiting GP
3. Public Health Nurse
4. Senior Case Worker
5. General Manager in your local health office
6. The Nursing Home Inspection Team
7. HSE Information Line 1850 24 1850

All queries / reports will be treated with confidentiality and, in so far as is practical, will be handled in a way that respects the wishes of the older person.

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What to do if Elder Abuse is suspected and where to go?

If you are a victim of Elder Abuse, are concerned about abuse, or if you suspect someone you know may be a victim of abuse, you should contact the HSE elder abuse service, through your GP, Public Health Nurse, local Health Centre or any of your local Senior Case Workers or An Garda Siochana.

The HSE has a dedicated Elder Abuse Service, with Senior Case Workers in Elder Abuse now working in most Local Health Office Areas.

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What happens to reports of suspected Elder Abuse?

All reported cases of Elder Abuse are treated very seriously. All cases will be treated with confidentiality and, in so far as is practical, will be handled in a way that respects the wishes of the older person. The prime focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of the older person while providing supports to stop the unwanted behaviour and facilitate the continuation of care.

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Contact us for Help and Advice

If you are a victim of Elder Abuse, are concerned about abuse, or if you suspect someone you know may be a victim of abuse, you should contact the HSE elder abuse service, through your GP, Public Health Nurse at your local Health Centre or any of your local Senior Case Workers - listed below - , HSE General Managers or An Garda Siochana.

HSE Senior Case Workers
The HSE has a dedicated Elder Abuse Service, with Senior Case Workers in Elder Abuse now working in most Local Health Office Areas. Click here to find Senior Case Workers in your area.

HSE Infoline
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850
Email: info@hse.ie

Senior Helpline
LoCall: 1850 440 444
Website: www.thirdageireland.ie/what-we-do/14/senior-helpline/
Email: info@thirdageireland.ie
The Senior Helpline provides opportunities for older people to talk to someone of their own age group for the price of a local call from anywhere in Ireland. Callers can talk to one of the older volunteers and all calls are taken in the strictest of confidence.


Cosc LogoCosc is the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence and was set up in June 2007. Cosc is an Irish word meaning to Stop or Prevent. This is the first time there has been a dedicated Government office with the key responsibility to ensure the delivery of a well co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The work of Cosc covers issues relating to Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence against women and men, including older people.
Visit the COSC Website here

Citizen’s Information Centres
LoCall: 1890 777 121
Monday to Friday, 9am-9pm
Website: www.citizensinformation.ie
Citizens Information provides comprehensive information on all aspects of Public Services and entitlements for citizens in Ireland and is based on a personal approach to the presentation and delivery of information on public services and the social and civil rights of everyone in Ireland. Citizens Information is also available by calling in person to a Citizens Information Centre near you. This is a free and confidential service.

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