Calls to an elder abuse helpline have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading a national action group to call for action on the insidious crime.
Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA) co-chair, Diedre Timms said the health crisis had created increased financial stress on families, prompting a higher than usual demand in changes to wills and to bank accounts, along with a 40% increase of calls to at least one state helpline.
“Elder abuse is everyone’s business, we all have a part to play,” said Ms Timms.
“We believe around 10% of older Australians experience elder abuse – nearly half a million people. So it’s a huge concern that the current situation with COVID-19 may be increasing its occurrence.
“We need to lift the veil on this previous closed-door issue and to do that, we are asking the community to become aware of what constitutes elder abuse and then to take action. This is a community wide issue and we need everyone’s commitment to eradicate elder abuse in Australia.”
To help empower the community to recognise, prevent and respond to elder abuse, EAAA has launched the first ever national campaign to shine a light on elder abuse.
The campaign includes the launch of a new national community resource and website, Compass.
“Elder abuse is confronting. As it often happens behind closed doors to members of the community that don’t have a voice, or don’t realise that how they are being treated is maltreatment, it can be difficult to recognise. But there are signs and steps that can be taken. Older people need to know they are not alone,” said Ms Timms.
“Compass is a first in that it provides the information and tools to do just that, with practical advice and resources for anyone in Australia to take action.
The Compass website provides a broad range of information and resources for Australians to better understand what elder abuse is, what it might look like, and what can be done about it.
It includes dedicated sections for people experiencing elder abuse, and those witnessing elder abuse, including definitions, signs and behaviours, tips on how to respond and prevent it, and a service directory of authorised and qualified providers across Australia to find appropriate help.
“We encourage the community to use this resource to help protect the social, physical, financial and emotional wellbeing of our elderly citizens,” said Ms Timms.
“Given the increasing reports of elder abuse due to COVID-19, we are pleased to have launched Compass at such a critical time. Elder abuse in all its forms must be stopped.
If you want to talk to someone, call the National Elder Abuse Helpline: 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).