Elder abuse is likely to have risen during the COVID pandemic but because it often goes under-reported the true level is unknown - and victims may not even be aware of the abuse.
Ballarat Community Health has launched a new program to help combat elder abuse, which can take many forms.
The See The Person, Respect The Person campaign hopes to reduce the hold elder abuse can have on the lives of older people by raising awareness and providing options for those seeking help.
"Elder abuse comes in many forms - financial, psychological, social, physical, sexual and neglect - and is unfortunately wide-spread in Victoria," said BCH project manager Kate Diamond-Keith.
In the lead up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (15 June) - & every day - remember that seniors are people who have the right to live free from violence and abuse.— BCH (@BallaratCH) June 9, 2021
See the person, respect the person.
Call Seniors Rights Victoria 1300 368 821 or call 1800 RESPECT for support. pic.twitter.com/tkdX6j6o3j
"To coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2021 the Ballarat Community Health project will humanise older Australians and raise awareness of elder abuse prevention services, promoting help-seeking behaviour in Ballarat and the surrounding areas."
Ms Diamond-Keith said the COVID pandemic-induced pressures imposed on the community over the past 18 months had increased incidents of elder abuse but the real incidence was unknown.
"Local statistics are really hard to get because it's under-reported. A lot of the perpetrators of elder abuse are people's children so they often don't report it because don't want to get their children in trouble," she said.
"It has probably increased as people move back in with older family members (due to pandemic pressures) but I think the pandemic has helped characterise older people as being frail and vulnerable to COVID so they should stay home, not go out and do anything."
Ms Diamond-Keith said the commonly-held view that people were less valued as they got older played a large part in elder abuse.
"One of the causes of elder abuse is the view that older people do not have as much value as they get older. We characterise elderly people as being vulnerable or frail or not able to look after themselves or their finances, when most people live very full, happy, engaged and active social lives."
In addition to physical abuse and mismanagement of a person's finances, elder abuse could also include preventing contact with family and friends, limiting a person's choices or placing pressure on them regarding decisions they make, not providing appropriate health or personal care, or inheritance impatience - a sense of entitlement to an older person's assets or resources.
"A lot of people don't realise what they are experiencing might be elder abuse, particularly around financial assets," she said.
A lot of the perpetrators of elder abuse are people's children so they often don't report it because don't want to get their children in trouble.Kate Diamond-Keith
The campaign seeks to educate older people and the community that older Australians' assets are theirs to control, that power of attorney is an older person's choice, an inheritance is not an entitlement, and that there is help available if these things are happening.
"Seniors have the right to live free from violence and abuse and to make their own informed choices," Ms Diamond-Keith said.
Seniors Rights Victoria run a helpline which people can call for advice around elder abuse, and Ms Diamond-Keith said local Ballarat services such as Orange Door, Berry Street, WRISC and Cafs can also help.
Of callers to the SRV hotline, 72 per cent were women, 66 per cent had a disability, and in 91 per cent of cases a family member was a perpetrator of mostly financial or psychological abuse.
To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day next week, Ballarat Grampians Community Legal Service is offering free appointments on Tuesday.
IN OTHER NEWS
And Senior Rights Victoria has launched its own campaign to encourage conversations around elder abuse, encouraging everyone to accept that elder abuse is everybody's businesses and for people to recognise and call out elder abuse.
They are encouraging people to hold Stir a Cuppa for Seniors morning or afternoon teas to foster conversations around elder abuse.
"Conversations tend to start organically and robustly around a cuppa and we want to nurture that notion when it comes to the issues around elder abuse," said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager, Rebecca Edwards.
SRV will also launch a series of videos and a new website. The SRV hotline is on 1300 368 821.
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: