The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organisation at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006 in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for our communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders, and reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to the principle of justice for all.
When we come together, we can prevent elder abuse from happening. We can put support services in place, and direct community resources toward addressing elder abuse. Ireland must reaffirm our commitment to justice and create a sturdy structure of support that will benefit us all as we get older.
The detection and response to elder abuse is significantly challenged by the lack of awareness and understanding, or even recognition of the issue among our communities.
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). Sixty five years of age is taken as the point beyond which abuse may be considered to be elder abuse.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides an opportunity for all of us to focus our attention on elder abuse. It challenges each one of us to help eradicate abuse of older people and to redouble efforts to promote respect and dignity for all older people. Everybody has a role to play and the challenges posed by elder abuse cannot be met solely by any one individual, organisation, or state body.
Types of Elder Abuse
The different types of abuse may be categorised as follows:-
- 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.
- Physical abuse - including slapping, pushing, hitting, kicking, misuse of medication, inappropriate restraint (including physical and chemical restraint) or sanctions.
- Financial or material abuseincluding theft; fraud; exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance, or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
- Neglect (including self-neglect) and acts of omissionincluding ignoring medical or physical care needs, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
- Discriminatory abuseincluding ageism, racism, sexism, that based on a persons disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.
- Institutional abuse may occur within residential care and acute settings including nursing homes, acute hospitals and any other in-patient settings, and may involve poor standards of care, rigid routines and inadequate responses to complex needs.
- 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.
Any person or organisation may be guilty of abuse. Most often it is someone well known to the older person, for example, a family member, relative, friend or care provider – a relationship where there is an expectation of trust.
Abuse can take place anywhere: most abuse takes place in the home, whether the person is living alone or with family. It may also occur within residential, day-care, or hospital settings, other places assumed to be safe, or in a public place.
If you or someone you know is being abused, talk to
- Someone you trust
- Your health professional - your family doctor, public health nurse, HSE Social Worker (Senior Case Worker) or anyone at your local health centre
- Your local Garda Station
- The HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm (they will give you details of HSE staff in your local area who can help you)
- Your bank or solicitor
- General managers in your HSE Local Health Office
- Nursing home owner or the nurse in charge
The Health Service Executive
The HSE is the competent authority for the reporting of Elder Abuse and has a dedicated Elder Abuse Service. For more information, see the Safeguarding section of the HSE's website which provides details of the Safeguarding policy, together with elder abuse publications. Please see also the details of the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teamswhich are located in each of the Community Health Care Organisations.
You can also seek advice from the HSE Information Line:
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850