World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is 15th June so as to raise community awareness around the world. As a representative of Older People Speak Out (OPSO), TOGETHER WITH Roz Young (another member of OPSO), I attended this forum to be informed, to contribute and to gauge what services and support is available for our most vulnerable members of the community. It is evident that “elder abuse” is no longer going to remain silent. The QPS Domestic Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit had combined presenters from –
Fraud and Corporate Crime Group
Police Link and Program Group
Griffith University (A.I.of Suicide Research and Prevention)
Missing Persons Unit
South Brisbane District Crime Prevention
QPS Citizens Youth Clubs
Volunteering in Police
The term “elder abuse” is a confronting title and, unfortunately, it is happening around us daily. In many cases, elder abuse is not identifiable due to the fact that elders do not or cannot report their abuse, as in many the perpetrators of the abuse are family members. The majority being adult sons or daughters, in cases where the older person is totally dependent on them.
We need to instil into our elders that they have the right to FEEL SAFE, and that they must not hesitate to contact the appropriate authorities in hour of need.
Abuse comes in various forms –
It is hard to identify elder abuse – in the eyes of the older person it is deemed as shameful, especially if the perpetrator is a family member. Fear, isolation and emotional dependency prevents people from seeking help.
The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (funded by the Queensland Government and auspiced by Uniting Care) have identified behaviours that may help to recognize elder abuse.
The most vulnerable of all victims are older persons with cognitive impairment – Dementia / Alzheimer. These victims, in many cases, go missing and are totally disoriented.
QPS Missing Persons Unit gave us some frightening statistics –
6,500 missing persons every year
18 each day (not all older persons) go missing
318 cases are over the age of 60 years
135 this year alone have gone missing, the oldest person being 95 years old
5 older persons have been found deceased
The question was asked – “why do these people go missing?”, reasons include –
Mental ill health
Loss of loved one
Many deaths could be prevented with support and awareness of community services availability.
There are 36,000 Dementia / Alzheimer cases in Queensland, and these numbers are rising daily. This has led the Dementia / Alzheimer Association to develop an “identity bracelet”, which was launched in 2015.
The bracelets are available free-of-charge from the Association. Details of the patient are engraved on the bracelet – i.e. serial number and Police contact number. This is agreat development, giving the wearer an identity in the hour of need. (QPS are endeavouring to make such bracelets available to children with disabilities).
Suicide is also increasing amongst older Australians and, once again, the identifiable factors are – lack of social interaction and support, social isolation, lack of activities and loss of a loved one. Older Queenslanders are targeted victims of crimes, and are vulnerable members of the community. Crimes such as identity theft, break and enter, neighbour harassment, door-to- door salesmen and vehicle theft are just some examples.
Our elders need to be better informed about the services and support that are available for their wellbeing and safety. Contact numbers are –
Police Emergency – 000
Elder Abuse Helpline – 1300 651 192
Police Link – 131 444
Older people of Queensland feel that they don’t want to be a “nuisance” or to “bother” anyone, so they neglect to contact the appropriate services or authorities.
POLICE LINK is for non-urgent matters – e.g. lost property, break and enter, vehicle theft and traffic complaints. Most calls to Police Link are made by persons aged over 65 and, in 2015-2016, 127 victim calls were from that age group. The 131 444 number needs to be regularly advertised and made known to the general community. Police response is immediate.