Almost half of elder abuse inflicted by adult children

Age Concern elder response service provider Toni Velenski said elder abuse is not okay and the...
Age Concern elder response service provider Toni Velenski said elder abuse is not okay and the biggest part of supporting elderly begins with respect. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
Case referrals in Central Otago over the past year reveal 46.4% of elder abuse was perpetrated by adult children.

Of the 27 elder abuse cases reported to Age Concern over the period, 48.6% were psychological related, 30.5% financial related and 4.8% physical related.

Age Concern defines elder abuse as “an act, repeated act or an act of omission which causes harm or distress to an older person who is in a relationship of trust".

Age Concern elder abuse response service provider Toni Velenski, who previously worked in the police, acknowledged elder abuse was rarely reported.

"I can count on one hand how many elderly victims were reported during my time in the police," Ms Velenski said.

The barriers included lack of awareness of appropriate elderly support.

"Sometimes they [older adults] don’t know they’re victims of abuse."

An Office for Seniors Elder Abuse and Neglect in New Zealand report said abuse ranged from psychological, financial, physical, sexual and institutional abuse to neglect.

Abuse can appear harmless, such as taking $20 from a parent’s wallet for personal groceries without asking, but can extend to borrowing a large amount for a house deposit and not paying it back.

In the report, "inheritance impatience" was identified as a factor behind financial abuse.

On June 15, 11 projects were assigned government funding in an effort towards prevention.

Minister for Seniors Ayesha Verrall said the Elder Abuse Prevention Fund assisted programmes supporting diverse groups across the older population.

"Sadly, one in 10 people experience elder abuse in New Zealand — that is simply unacceptable," Dr Verrall said.

"We need to find different ways to prevent abuse. This extra funding allows us to trial innovative approaches to prevent elder abuse."

The fund was allocated $250,000 to be granted across the 11 projects.

This is in addition to the $6.3million announced in Budget 2022 towards new prevention initiatives for older people.

University of Otago Associate Prof Yoram Barak’s research project, BMC Geriatrics, is one of the 11 to receive Elder Abuse Prevention Fund funding.

The research analysed seven years of International Resident Assessment Instrument (interRAI-CH) data from the across the Southern District Health Board area — the current assessment tool used to identify elder abuse.

It revealed through altering the criteria within the assessments, identification of at-risk individuals could increase from 2.6% to 4.8%.

Prof Barak said elder abuse remained largely undetected and underreported.

"Existing elder abuse assessment tools are not up to par and efforts to improve them are crucial."

--  Aspen Bruce





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