04 December 2015

Shining the spotlight on elder abuse

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Australia recently observed White Ribbon Day, which was a campaign to prevent men’s violence against women. As I discussed this topic with a colleague, we ended up discussing another form of abuse that’s not often considered or talked about – Elder Abuse.

This site estimates that there are approximately 100,000 unreported cases of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation throughout Australia per year. This post, if nothing more, intends to draw attention to elder abuse and spread the word that help is available. Amidst the focus on various other forms of abuse, elder abuse is an issue in Australia, and should not slip under the radar.

According to the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit, “elder abuse” is a relatively recent term that is used to encapsulate mistreatment that includes an act, or lack of appropriate action, which causes harm or distress to an older peson.

Elder abuse occurs when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship, and the dominant person assumes control. This can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect.

As with most forms of abuse, it is not often easy to identify elder abuse because people who are the subject of abuse often do not verbalise it, and may feel shame, fear or isolation.

Here are some signs which may help you identify elder abuse (adapted from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/elder-abuse-and-neglect.htm):

  • Frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person
  • Changes in personality or behavior in the elder
  • Physical abuse which includes unexplained signs of injury and/or sprains
  • Emotional abuse which may be observed or unobserved – threatening, belittling or controlling behaviour from a caregiver
  • Sexual abuse including bruises around private parts or unexplained bleeding
  • Neglect by caregivers or self-neglect
  • Financial exploitation including unexplained withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Healthcare fraud and abuse, for example over medication or evidence of inadequate care


These are but a few key examples of elder abuse. The list spans various other acts/lack of action, and further information is provided here:


This site has a handy list of contact numbers, listed by state, if you have concerns about elder abuse:


The only way that we are able to prevent and overcome abuse when it happens, is if we are equipped with the appropriate knowledge to identify it. Don’t let it slip – if you suspect something, say something.


Su grew up dreaming of being a journalist, dodging bullets and gunfire with a camera thrust in front of her reporting from a war zone. Having realised that she is not really as agile as she thought, she has settled for dodging cockroaches in metropolitan Sydney as her adrenaline fix. Su is inquisitive and loves a good challenge, which is why she has chosen to produce conferences at Akolade. In her spare time, Su likes to read, drink green tea, and fantasise about making the world a better place; getting rid of the need for war journalists entirely.

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