Off the fence
Age Action this week has welcomed the 13 per cent increase in the number of alleged cases of elder abuse reported to the HSE last year.
The 2,110 cases referred to the HSE’s dedicated elder abuse service in 2010, compares to 1,870 cases in 2009, and 1,840 the previous year.
There is a huge problem of under-reporting when it comes to elder abuse in Ireland, so the increase in the number of cases being referred to the HSE is very welcome. It is an indication that we are making progress in tackling this hidden form of abuse in Ireland.
However, the gap between those being abused, and those seeking help for abuse is still considerable. Research published last year by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People found that 10,200 older people had been abused in the previous 12 months and 18,700 older people had experienced elder abuse at some time since they turned 65. In contrast, since the HSE’s elder abuse service commenced in 2007 about 6,700 cases of alleged abuse have been referred to it.
Increased reporting of alleged abuse does not necessarily mean that there was more abuse occurred last year in Ireland, but it is an indication of a greater level of awareness among health professionals and the general public that a support service is available for those being abused.
About half the alleged abuse victims last year were aged over-80, and 65 per cent were women. Some 95 per cent of alleged abuse occurred in the person’s home.
The 2010 figures showed that health care professionals were the largest category of referrers of suspected abuse cases to the HSE service, with public health nurses accounting for a third of referrals.
Age Action ran a series of elder abuse public awareness raising workshops in March and April. There was a strong belief among the older people who attended these meetings that more had to be done to make people aware of abuse, the warning signs of abuse, and to let people know about the HSE’s elder abuse service.
We need to get the message out that elder abuse is never acceptable, that doing nothing is not an option when you suspect that abuse is occurring, and that older people who are being abused can turn to a dedicated, professional elder abuse service for support.
If you are being abused, you can contact your local elder abuse case worker by phoning the HSE’s information line 1850 24 1850. Age Action’s information service operates from 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Eamon Timmins is head of Advocacy and Communication at Age Action