Older Tasmanians have the right to dignity and respect and to be able to make their own decisions. They also have the right to live in a safe environment free from abuse.
The World Health Organisation defines the abuse of older people (or Elder Abuse) as: a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.
This means that abuse can be deliberate or unintentional, and can occur just once, or many times. Abuse of older people is typically carried out by someone close to them with whom they have a trusting relationship. The trusting relationship can be between the abused and their partner, children, other relatives, friends, carers, neighbours, nurses, social workers, home help or even professionals looking after the person’s finances. Many types of elder abuse are against the law , some of which are listed below.
Abuse of older people can include physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual and social abuse as well as intentional or unintentional neglect.
Examples of Physical Abuse
- Punching, slapping, kicking, tripping
- Inappropriate restraining of the older person
- Over or under-medicating
- Neglect – not providing care to the older person, such as failing to provide sufficient food, water and clothing or access to medication or treatment.
Examples of Psychological/Emotional Abuse
- Being prevented from making their own decisions
- Being threatened in any way and including the threat of being moved to a nursing home
- Being intimidated, harassed or bullied
- Being stopped from seeing family including grandchildren, friends or attending social activities
Examples of Financial Abuse
- Being forced to change a Will or nominate someone as an Enduring Power of Attorney
- Having possessions sold or taken without permission
- Unable to access or control own money
- Forging signatures
Examples of Sexual Abuse
- Being forced to have sex against a persons will.
- Other unwanted touching or kissing
- Sexual harassment
- Making inappropriate comments about an older persons body
Examples of Social Abuse
- Being moved away from family or friends
- Withholding mail or disconnecting the phone
- Someone moving in and taking control over an older person’s home without their consent
- Preventing contact with family or friends
- Being prevented from using the phone or having calls monitored
- Not being allowed to socialise with family, friends or neighbours
- Being prevented from going to Church
If you or anyone you know is experiencing Elder Abuse, call Tasmania Police on 000 if it is an emergency. Otherwise, contact the Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline on free-call 1800 44 11 69 for advice and information. The Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline is a service operated on behalf of the Tasmanian Government by Advocacy Tasmania Inc. The Helpline provides callers with information, advice and referral on actions they can take to prevent and respond to Elder Abuse in its many guises; emotional, physical, financial, social, sexual, and neglect. Its role is to assist older people, families, service providers and the wider community to better access existing supports and services. Most people are unsure who to call regarding suspected Elder Abuse. The Helpline provides a central point of contact by telephoning 1800 441 169 or by visiting the Advocacy Tasmania website.