Australia

Calls to elder abuse hotline in Australia soar

Aylin * is 70 years old. Recently, he sought help after surviving a violent incident – from his own daughter.
Police were named after the argument where the verbal abuse also allegedly included a death threat.
Aylin says she has experienced emotional and financial abuse from her daughter, which controls her phone use and prevents her from having social contact.
The situation is complicated by the fact that her daughter is also the first person to care for her, and Aylin, an immigrant from Australia, asks for an interpreter to communicate when seeking help.

Deanne Lawrie has heard many discouraging stories like Aylin in her eight years at the UnitingCare Elder Abuse Prevention Unit in Brisbane.

A woman smiling at the camera.

Deanne Lawrie of the Brisbane Prevention Unit. Credit: SBS News / Matt Guest

He says: “We often hear that older people are being held by adult children or that they are threatening to repay.

“Most of our calls are where an adult child is abusing their parents. Thus it is usually abuse in a family situation.
The UnitingCare unit in the Chermside neighborhood of Brisbane typically receives about 3,400 calls a year but has seen a 30 percent increase this year alone.
“I get about 10 to 15 calls a day on the helpline,” Ms Lawrie says.

“Aging abuse is definitely a hidden issue, but I think it’s coming out of the wild right now.”

The state and federal governments are demanding that the image of elder abuse be addressedThe state and federal governments are demanding that the image of elder abuse be addressed
Queensland’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit provides free assistance to anyone affected or witnessing adult abuse. It can also refer cases to a suitable agency.
It is part of a national support service network, which includes the national helpline number 1800 ELDEREd or 1800 353 374.
A nationwide published in December 2021 found abuse more widespread than thought.
The National Elder Abuse Prevalence study found 15 per cent of older Australians, or around 630,000 people, had experienced abuse in the previous year. Of these, the majority reported psychological abuse, followed by neglect and financial abuse.

Luke Lindsay, general manager of UnitingCare Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Queensland, said: “The perpetrators of crime are people who have a close or intimate relationship with the elderly.

Luke Lindsay is the general manager of the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Luke Lindsay is the general manager of the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit

Luke Lindsay is the general manager of the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Credit: SBS News / Matt Guest

“He can be a son, a daughter or a grandson, but also distant relatives.

“In most cases, older people depend on them for care and support, for transportation, for medical needs.”
For many older Australians, abuse increased during the pandemic.

“Adult children who may have lost their jobs or left business are returning home with their parents. And really the dynamics of this family relationship have fallen apart, “said Ms. Lawrie.

Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie at UnitingCare in Bsirbane Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie at UnitingCare in Bsirbane

Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie at UnitingCare in Bsirbane Credit: SBS News / Matt Guest

Ms Lawrie says ending the stigma of abuse is key, as many adults are afraid to report abuse from close family members.

“There is a lot of shame in making this call, so it can often take a while to make contact.”

Some older Australians are struggling to access the Internet, and people with English as a second language may face other barriers.

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“Where a senior calls us directly, we quickly get telephone interpretation services to connect us to a three-way conversation,” Mr Lindsay says.
“We want to experience one positive, in the first example.”
Resources in languages ​​other than English are also available
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Patterson says support is needed in Australia’s multicultural community where abuse can remain hidden.
“We have materials in 19 non-English languages ​​to ensure that non-English speakers have the help they need and can get it quickly.”

Dr Patterson says abuse can cover a wide range – but at its core is the mistreatment of an older Australian.

Dr. Patterson's Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr. Patterson's Age Discrimination Commissioner

Dr. Patterson’s Age Discrimination Commissioner Credit: Supply Human Rights Commission

“It can be psychological abuse or it can take other forms, but abuse can sometimes also increase in murder,” Dr. Patterson says.

Jenny Blakey is co-chair of Elder Abuse Action Australia – a national institution aimed at protecting the rights of former Australians – and is concerned that elder abuse has not been reported.
He says: “Two-thirds of the elderly are not seeking help, and this is a major concern.
“We really need to look at what’s going on to decide what we can do about it.”

There are 4.2 million Australians over 65 and this number is expected to rise to 9 million in the next quarter of a century – meaning more older people will be potentially at risk.

Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie stand in front of an elder abuse poster Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie stand in front of an elder abuse poster

Luke Lindsay and Deanne Lawrie urge people to call to discuss abuse claims Credit: SBS News / Matt Guest

“It’s a terrible scourge in Australia and we need to keep an eye on former Australians and report abuse,” Dr Patteson said.

Luke Lindsay of UnitingCare encourages anyone who sees signs of abuse, such as physical damage, strange depression, or a sudden lack of money to get help.
“Calls for elder abuse hotlines remain anonymous and confidential, and there is no time limit for those who want to talk about their stories.
“Elder abuse is everyone’s business,” he said.
World Aging Awareness Day is June 15th.
* Names are changed to protect identity.
For help and support and elder abuse contact the national on 1800 ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374. In a triple zero (000) emergency call.
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