When a grown child moves back home to help take care of an aging Mum or Dad, it may look like an act of charity from the outside and is sure to win the praise and maybe even relief of the rest of the support network.
But a recent article in the New Zealand Herald paints a less rosy picture.
The elderly advocacy organization, Age Concern, told the Herald that they handle as many as 2000 elder abuse cases each year, and that as many as 25,000 older Kiwis could be experiencing abuse, if unreported cases are counted.
This means that 3-10 percent of elderly New Zealanders may suffer abuse, the article said. In about 75 percent of cases, the abuser is related to the victim.
The Plague of Financial Abuse
Although these cases include instances of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, the most common type of exploitation by far is financial in nature.
Over half of reported cases consist of some kind of theft, according to the article.
A typical case, according to Age Concern, is for a son or daughter to move home and begin using the parent's pension to pay for his or her own expenses.
There have also been reports of the adult child drafting a will and forcing the parent to sign it.
The first step in preventing elder abuse, is knowing what to look for. The following signs may indicate that a friend, neighbour, or loved one is experiencing abuse:
- Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises or broken bones
- Apparent failure to take medication regularly
- Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone
- Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself
- Unexplained moving of important papers, identification documents
- Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
- Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
- Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
- Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition
- Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
- Addition of names to the senior’s signature card
More information on signs and prevention can be found on the Age Concern website.
What To Do
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, there are a number of community organizations that can help. You can start by contacting your local Age Concern office or call the Family Violence Helpline at 0800 456 450.
For an extensive list of resources, check out the Family and Community Services Department website.