Connection key to protecting older Australians from abuse

Staying socially active and well connected to local communities and a range of services and support has been identified as a key measure in the prevention and protection of older Australians affected by violence. 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is held on 15 June each year as an opportunity for communities to promote a better understanding of abuse of older persons. 

Centacare General Manager Joanne Roy oversees the delivery of vital at-home and social and community support services that help older Australians live independently and safely with the dignity they deserve. She said older people are often reluctant to discuss or report abuse and that social isolation can exacerbate this, making them particularly vulnerable.  

“Fear of retaliation from the abuser or getting family members into trouble, a loss of independence or access to grandchildren and feelings of shame are all common barriers to reporting abuse,” said Ms Roy.  

“Some may not even realise what they are experiencing is abuse or feel that somehow it is their fault. Elder abuse comes in many forms, from neglect, control and financial abuse to more obvious physical forms of abuse. Whatever the form the abuse takes, it is always devastating because it is inflicted by someone who is trusted.” 

“It is critical that older people feel well connected in their community, with multiple touchpoints providing high quality support, opportunities for choice and avenues for necessary intervention where needed.  

“We have a range of services that support older people to get out and about and stay connected in their local communities as well as a full suite of help to care services that give families and carers the opportunity to rest and recharge. 

“It’s critical that our support workers and the broader community are attuned to changes we see in the older people we know and can recognise the signs of abuse as a first step in offering help.  

Recognising the signs of elder abuse 

Here are some key indicators to look out for: 

  • Changes in behaviour: If an older person seems fearful, withdrawn, or unusually anxious or depressed, these could be signs of psychological abuse. 
  • Physical signs: Unexplained bruising, injuries, or weight loss can indicate physical abuse or neglect. 
  • Financial difficulties: Be alert to unpaid bills, sudden changes in financial circumstances, or the misuse of financial tools, as these may signal financial abuse. 
  • Social isolation: If an older person is being restricted from seeing friends or family or if their social interactions are being controlled, this could be a sign of social abuse. 
  • Changes in sleeping patterns: Noticeable changes in sleeping habits can often reflect underlying stress or anxiety. 

If you know or suspect someone is being abused, you can: 

  • Let the person know that help is available 
  • Invite the person to talk in a place where they are alone and safe and listen 
  • Let the person know it is not their fault 
  • Respect their right to make their own decisions 
  • Avoid being critical of the abusive person 
  • Keep providing support, even if they refuse help. 

How to get help 

If you or someone you know feels threatened or unsafe, call 000. 

If you require further information or feel you’d like some confidential advice or support, you can contact the Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 651 192. 

If you or your family have any concerns about your safety, Centacare offers a safe and supportive space for you todiscuss your concerns. 

large group of people from enoggera hub wearing purple

Clients and the Centacare team came together at the Enoggera Social and Community Hub to raise awareness of elder abuse.