Department of Education & Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin D01 RC96 01-8892199

Rise in number of HSE elder abuse referrals signals growing confidence in reporting

Ireland is one of a handful of European countries with a dedicated elder abuse service – older people must be encouraged to use it.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said the reported rise of nine per cent in the number of elder abuse referrals received by the HSE in 2011, signals a growing confidence in reporting the abuse and mistreatment of older people. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor went on to say that it is incumbent on each and every person to remain vigilant to the signs of elder abuse and to encourage those suffering from neglect or manipulation to report it to the authorities.

“Last week I facilitated a cross-Party briefing on elder abuse which was addressed by Emer Begley and Robin Webster of Age Action. Elder abuse, like child abuse, is the exploitation of our most vulnerable people in society which must be stamped out once and for all.

“The HSE report entitled, HSE Elder Abuse Services 2011, indicates that 2,302 referrals of elder abuse were received by the Executive in 2011, representing an increase of nine per cent on 2010. Psychological abuse was the most prevalent form of abuse reported (35%), followed by financial abuse (23%), neglect (19%) and physical abuse (12%). The report encourages the continued reporting of the mistreatment of elderly people through the public health nursing service, hospital/HSE staff or family members.

“Ireland is one of only a handful of European countries that has a formal dedicated service to investigate and support those involved in incidents of elder abuse. There are currently 31 senior case workers charged with the protection of older people and we must facilitate them in carrying out their work. Last year the HSE undertook a media campaign to help people recognise the symptoms of elder abuse and the most effective ways of dealing with it. This is attributed with the rise in the number of referrals to the HSE as people become aware that it is happening and take action on behalf of victims.

“The report indicates that incidents of referral were higher among the over 80s and that sons and daughters were most often identified as the perpetrators of abuse (44%). This further highlights the exploitive nature of the abuse and the manner in which older people are victimised.

“This year is the European Year of Positive Ageing and Inter-generational Solidarity, and with a recent study from UCD indicating that approximately 2.2% of people aged 65 years and over, or a staggering 10,200 people, experience elder abuse, now is the time to eradicate this horrendous practice.

“I encourage everyone to be vigilant and to contact the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850 if the mistreatment or abuse of an elderly person is suspected. Older people do not always have the confidence to speak out for themselves. It is up to us to ensure that they know a structure is in place to offer help and support and to ensure that their protection is always first and foremost.”

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