The warning signs of elder abuse and what you can do

HAVE you ever seen or been part of a situation with an older person that just didn't seem right? Like the person was being taken advantage of in some way?

It may have been elder abuse.

Maybe you saw it happen to someone you love, maybe it happened to you - or maybe you were the perpetrator.

Today (Thursday, June 15) is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is designated by the United Nations as a day where people voice their opposition to the abuse, neglect and suffering inflicted on older people. Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to the older person.

It is not always overt, and it is not always physical - it can be financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

Part of the struggle in addressing elder abuse is identifying and recognising that it exists in the first place.

Principal solicitor of the Hervey Bay Seniors Legal and Support Service Melissa Seymour-Dearness says elder abuse is more prevalent than people think, and can be tricky to identify.

"Often people just think of it as family dynamics, a family situation," she says.

"Abusers often see it that way, too."

Warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Disappearance of possessions, unexplained financial transactions, and changes to a will, property title or other documents are also of concern.

The Seniors and Legal Support Service is a free and confidential social and legal service, and anyone can contact the service with their concerns.

"We get lots of referrals from friends, neighbours, even banking institutions," Ms Seymour-Dearness said.

The service gets some calls directly from people who believe they are, or have been victims, however often there is a hesitance to speak out against one's own family and fear of the repercussions, especially if that person is dependent on their abuser.

Ms Seymour-Dearness says in situations where that is the case, the service can set up a system if need be so the older person does not have to rely on the abuser.

And if you just need some advice but don't want to take things any further, you can do that too.

"We would never pass on information without the client's consent," Ms Seymour-Dearness said.

Wear something purple today to show you care about ending elder abuse.

The Seniors Legal and Support Service is free and can be contacted on 4124 6863.

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