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HSE warns of ‘awareness deficit’ on elder abuse

By Mindo - 15th Jun 2023

The detection and response to elder abuse is “challenged” by lack of awareness among staff, communities and families, according to the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office (NSO).

Last year, the number of reported “elder abuse concerns” exceeded 4,000 for the first time since data was collected by the HSE.

The data is contained in the NSO annual report for 2022, which was released today to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Overall, reports of adult safeguarding concerns increased by 18 per cent in 2022.  Some 13,700 concerns were reported last year under the HSE’s adult safeguarding policy, which is operational in social care.

Under the policy, nine regional safeguarding and protection teams receive safeguarding concerns and safeguarding plans from HSE/HSE-funded disability and older persons services for specialist review and they also directly manage cases in the community.

According to Mr Tim Hanly, General Manager of the NSO: “The publication of the National Safeguarding Office Report for 2022 is a timely reminder of the importance of adult safeguarding across our health and social care services. The number of elder abuse reports to the HSE has risen this year to over 4,000 reports, however the figures remain low by international standards.

“The detection and response to elder abuse is significantly challenged by a deficit in awareness and understanding, perhaps even recognition of the issue among staff, families and communities. As our population ages, elder abuse has become a growing concern with an estimated one in six older adults experiencing some form of abuse or neglect each year.

“An important way for older people to protect themselves and prevent abuse is to be informed, to ensure their friends and family know what signs to watch out for and to act when they suspect elder abuse.”

The NSO said it was promoting a range of events and activities across older persons’ services to raise awareness based on the theme ‘Hear me, support me, challenge elder abuse’.

  • In collaboration with the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, a conference focusing on elder abuse is taking place.
  • Several national heritage buildings will light up in purple to support the initiative, whilst HSE staff and stakeholders are encouraged to show solidarity by wearing the purple ribbon.
  • Local team and community activities.

According to the NSO, ageist beliefs and practices remain “pervasive” and contribute to situations of abuse for older people in both community and care settings.

“If you have any concerns regarding an adult at risk of abuse, please take action. Inform a trusted health professional or if you are a healthcare worker talk to your line manager. The HSE has nine safeguarding and protection teams in place all over the country to provide help and assistance. Community referrals to the teams can be made directly.”

Other findings from the NSO annual report included:

  • There was a 32 per cent increase in safeguarding reports in regard to people aged over 80 compared to 2021.
  • The concerns reported per Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) ranged from 2.11/1,000 population in CHO2 to 4.48/1,000 population in CHO7. The national average of 3.82/1,000 population was exceeded in five CHOs (CHO 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9).
  • There were 15,464 abuse types alleged in relation to the 13,700 concerns reported. Psychological and physical abuse remained the main types of abuse reported.
  • Almost half of the concerns reported for those 18-64 years had a psychological component. Concerns of alleged physical abuse decreased with age but remained significant across all age categories.
  • The levels of reported financial abuse and neglect increased with age.

The report noted that learning had continued to highlight the importance of delivering human rights-informed models of service delivery. It described “an urgent need” to progress de-congregation of services, advance the social care model, and adequately respond to client compatibility.

There remained “a significant requirement” for primary legislation to support and enhance the HSE’s ability to respond to adult safeguarding concerns. There was also a need for “further investment” to fully support the intended expansion of HSE adult safeguarding policy.

“Following the pending publication of a health sector-wide policy by the Department of Health in 2023 and the upcoming publication of the Law Reform Commission Report on the future regulation of adult safeguarding services the HSE will align to expand our operations in relation to adult safeguarding.”

For further information, visit: Ireland | Promoting the rights of vulnerable adults

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