What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is a form of family violence and it is unacceptable.
Elder abuse is any act occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which results in harm to an older person. Elder abuse may be physical, sexual, financial, psychological, social and/or neglect.
Elder abuse that occurs in aged care facilities and nursing homes has received a lot of media coverage, particularly in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, with a final report expected by 30 April 2020. This form of abuse violates human rights and is both illegal and abhorrent.
This campaign refers to violence and elder abuse that occurs in a family context that is perpetrated by either a relative, friend or known and trusted associate (such as a carer).
Research shows that up to 14 per cent of older people may be experiencing elder abuse. Yet the real number is estimated to be much higher than this because elder abuse is often under reported
Forms of elder abuse
Family violence against older people can take many forms. It is not uncommon for older people to experience multiple forms of elder abuse at one time. Some common forms of elder abuse are listed below:
- One of the most common forms of elder abuse reported by older Victorians. Examples may include:
- Coercing an older person into giving money to a relative
- Taking money to compensate for looking after an older family member
- Pressuring an older relative into making financial decisions
- Forcing an older relative to change their Will.
Emotional (or psychological) abuse
Using threats, humiliation or harassment, which may cause distress, feelings of shame, stress or powerlessness.
Emotional abuse is often used alongside other forms of elder abuse.
Failing to provide the necessities of life. Examples may include:
- Failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical attention or dental care
- Using medication improperly
- Keeping older people in a state of poor hygiene.
Inflicting pain or injury through physical force. Examples may include:
- Using restraints.
Forced isolation and increased helplessness. Examples may include:
- Restricting access to support networks (family, friends, help services)
- Discouraging visitors/social outings
- Opening mail/screening phone calls without permission.
Any form of forced or unwanted sexual activity, including taking advantage of a person unable to give consent.
Barriers to reporting
The reasons for not reporting abuse are complicated and may include:
- fear, including fear of retaliation or family breakdown
- older people may not recognise that what they are experiencing is elder abuse
- older people may feel that they are responsible for the behaviour of the perpetrator
- feelings of guilt and shame
- belief that aggression and violence is a normal part of family life
- fear that seeking help will lead to being placed in residential care
- lack of knowledge about available sources of help.
If you are unsure about asking for help, remember everyone has the right to be safe. No older person should be subjected to any form of abuse, mistreatment or neglect. Elder abuse is a form of family violence, and it is unacceptable.
What to do if you suspect elder abuse is occurring or you are experiencing elder abuse
If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of elder abuse, you can discuss these concerns with a trusted family member, GP or physician. For further information and for independent advice, contact one of the specialist organisations listed below.
Resources and acknowledgements
Respect Victoria acknowledges the work of the Seniors and Participation Unit (Department of Health and Human Services), the Commissioner for Senior Victorians (Mr Gerard Mansour), Seniors Rights Victoria and the Office for Women (Department of Premier and Cabinet).
A series of printed materials have been developed to support this campaign and can be downloaded below. To receive printed copies of any the following resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We post ‘call it out’ campaign content to Facebook and Twitter and we encourage you to share our posts. If you’re posting on your own social media accounts, feel free to tag us:
Use this link (insert link) to share the Respect older people: Call It Out' video on your social media channels.
To promote the Respect older people: Call It Out campaign, we encourage you to download the Facebook and Twitter cover photos featured below and post to your social media account – feel free to use or take inspiration from the suggested posts below.
Suggested Facebook posts
- Caring for an elderly family member does not entitle you to take their money. There is no grey area, it’s elder abuse and it’s wrong #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- They’re retired. They own their home. They’ve got plenty of super. No amount of self-justification makes elder abuse ok #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- Ageing does nothing to diminish your rights. Elder abuse is everybody's business #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- Family aren’t entitled to a free pass for poor behaviour. Have the challenging conversation #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- Don't let a false sense of entitlement steer your decision making #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- I do Mum's groceries, I make her doctor's appointments. I deserve to be compensated. There is no grey area - you know it's wrong #ElderAbuse #CallItOut
- Things will never change if we ignore elder abuse #CallItOut
- There is no grey area. Any action that takes away the rights of an older person is a form of elder abuse #CallItOut
- Everyone in our community has the right to live safely, free from abuse, harm and exploitation #CallItOut
- Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. For more information on Seniors Rights Victoria phone 1300 368 821 or visit the Senior Rights Victoria website.
- Elder Rights Advocacy provide specialist advice on elder abuse within the context of Australian Government-funded aged care services (residential and home care). For more information on Elder Rights Advocacy phone 1800 700 600 or visit the Older Persons Advocacy Network website.
- The Victorian Public Advocate is empowered by law to promote and safeguard the rights and interests of people living with a disability. For more phone 1300 309 337 or visit the Office of the Public Advocate website.
- 1800 Respect is a national hotline operated by trained counselors. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support people impacted by family violence, please call 1800 737 732. More information can be found on the 1800 Respect website.
- Men’s Referral Service is the peak body for organisations and individuals working with men to end family violence in Victoria and New South Wales. For more information phone 1300 766 491 or visit the No To Violence website.
- With respect’s role is to both support people in LGBTIQ communities and their families affected by family violence as well as build the capacity of the integrated family services and specialist family violence system. For more information phone 1800 542 847 or visit the w|respect website.
If you are concerned for your immediate safety or that of someone else, please contact the police in your state or territory or call Triple Zero (000) for emergency services.