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Record number of referrals to elder abuse services

In 2014, there were 2,592 referrals made to the elder abuse service, which is an increase of 5 per cent from 2013. This represented the largest number of referrals received in any year since the service was established, according to the HSE’s review of Elder Abuse Services for 2014.

Psychological abuse was the most frequently reported form of abuse at 29 per cent, followed by financial abuse (21 per cent), self-neglect (21 per cent), neglect (15 per cent) and physical abuse (12 per cent).

In total, 66 per cent of referrals related to females. Of these, the majority were in the over-80s age category (54 per cent).

The Public Health Nursing Service continues to be the main referral source, despite a 4 per cent drop from 2013 to 29 per cent, followed by hospital (14 per cent) and family (13 per cent).

There was a significant increase in the number of concerns that first originated from older people themselves, from 19 per cent in 2013 to 26 per cent in 2014.

As characteristic of previous years, the alleged perpetrators were adult children in 49 per cent of cases, partner/husband wife (19 per cent) and ‘other relative’ (15 per cent). Additionally, 5 per cent of cases were classified as ‘other’, which predominantly related to landlord/lodger-related concerns.

Mr Paschal Moynihan, HSE Specialist Older Persons Services, said: “We would encourage anyone who has a concern about abuse of an older person to contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker.

“A key priority for 2014 was to publish one policy spanning both older persons and disability services. ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse – National Policy and Procedures’ now provides one overarching policy to which all agencies will subscribe.”

According to the HSE, training continued to be a primary function of the Elder Abuse Service in 2014, with 7,196 individuals attending an elder abuse training programme/awareness raising workshop.

Mr Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said elder abuse is a “widespread but hidden problem” in Ireland.

He commented: “Minister Leo Varadkar must look at expanding the elder abuse service provided by the HSE, putting more dedicated case workers in place to assist vulnerable older people.”

On Monday – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – Age Action published findings of a survey it jointly conducted with Ulster Bank.

It found that 45 per cent of the bank’s customer service staff who responded to the survey had dealt with suspected cases of elder financial abuse. Almost all of those had encountered at least one case in the previous 12 months.

Today’s report confirms that financial elder abuse continues to be the second most common form of elder abuse report reported to the HSE, noted Age Action.

Meanwhile, commenting on the HSE report, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said the fact that the HSE has “established clear mechanisms” to address elder abuse may be a factor in the increase in referrals.

“Combatting elder abuse requires broad-ranging responses which go well beyond the investigation of incident reports,” added Minister Lynch. “Respect for older people and the extent to which we recognise and value their position in society are also very important. The cross-Departmental National Positive Ageing Strategy is designed to foster positive attitudes, and is one of my priorities for the remainder of this Government’s term.”

*People concerned about Elder Abuse, or who want to get help, can contact the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850. Alternatively, they can contact a health professional such as GP, public health nurse or social worker.

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