The unspoken side of elder abuse

In Part 1 of this series about elder abuse, we produced a diagram illustrating the types of abuse suffered by seniors and spoke at some length about psychological abuse which represents 42 per cent of abuse cases. The second largest area of reported abuse (33 per cent), financial abuse, was examined in Part 2.

Now in Part 3 we want to give examples of sexual, social, neglect and physical abuse which together are the balance of 23 per cent of the abuses perpetrated against vulnerable seniors.

Clare’s story

Clare phoned the Elder Abuse Helpline because she was upset about the way her son-in-law was treating her and wanted to talk about it confidentially to someone outside her family and group of friends.

Clare had lived in a granny flat adjoining her daughter and son-in-law’s house for about a year and had been happy with the arrangement until a few months previously when her son-in-law had started calling in to see her, unannounced and alone, mostly when her daughter was out. During these visits, he would create some excuse for pulling her close to him or cuddling her and had sometimes touched her in a way that she felt was inappropriate.

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She had tried to ignore it and wanted to stop it but there were so many complicating factors that she didn’t know how to go about doing so. She felt embarrassed and was concerned about the impact that speaking out would have on her relationship with her daughter, grandchildren and other family members, as well as her living arrangements. She said she couldn’t sell the granny flat, or afford to buy or rent another place to live. Clare didn’t want the current situation to continue but felt the options for addressing it were limited.


Dorothy’s story

A woman who wished to remain anonymous phoned the Elder Abuse Helpline about her neighbour Dorothy, a 78-year-old woman on a war widow’s pension. Dorothy’s 23-year-old grandson Peter, a violent drug-user, had moved in about six months before and the neighbour had heard him shouting fiercely at Dorothy and threatening her.

The caller also mentioned that Dorothy no longer chatted over the fence, was rarely seen outside the house and seemed physically frailer and very nervous.

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Peter and Geoff’s story

Peter is a cleaner and gardener who contacted the Elder Abuse Helpline because he was concerned about his elderly client, Geoff.

Geoff was a fit, active 92-year-old who shared his house with his son John. Although Geoff was friendly and liked a chat, John seldom spoke. He didn’t seem to like Geoff and Peter conversing either, or being together, and would often appear while they were talking and stand waiting until they finished.

One day, Peter was at the house doing some mowing and noticed a large nasty-looking bruise on Geoff’s arm. When Peter asked about it in concern, Geoff yelled at him and ordered him off the premises.

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Ray’s story

The manager of a residential aged care facility contacted the Elder Abuse Helpline to discuss a situation that had arisen with Ray, a 75-year-old resident at the facility. Following his wife’s death, Ray had joined a gay club which he visited once or twice a week. Although Roy had decision-making capacity, his son and daughter were managing his financial affairs through an Enduring Power of Attorney that also covered his personal and health affairs.

They had found out about their father’s membership of the club through his credit card bills and had instructed the residential facility, via a lawyer’s letter, to stop Ray from going there. When the matter was discussed with Ray, he was open about his sexual orientation and said he wanted to continue visiting the club and could afford the costs involved.

In each of the cases above, the Elder Abuse Helpline was able to advise the caller what options are available to them. You will note that an anonymous complaint is given the same credence as calls where the name is the caller is known. Trust your Instincts, if you or someone you know is a victim of any of these, or other, types of abuse, this is the time to tell someone, seek help. Speak out please, you don’t have to see it to believe it.

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There is someone you can talk to, all states have an Elder Abuse Helpline:

Queensland – 1300 651 192

New South Wales – 1800 628 881

ACT (Canberra) – (02) 6242 5060

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Victoria – 1300 368 821

Tasmania – (03) 6237 0047

South Australia – (08) 8232 5377

Western Australia – 1300 724 679

Northern Territory – 1800 037 072

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Much of the information provided in this blog is freely available under Creative Commons, and is used with sincere thanks to, and acknowledgement of, the authors.

Full versions of the above stories are available at The Queensland Government website link here.