Elder abuse spikes in WA – Advocare

Perth Now

Reports of elder abuse have spiked in WA, with calls to a helpline soaring 50 per cent in the first four months of this year.

There were 257 calls to Advocare’s Elder Abuse Helpline between January and April this year compared to 171 calls during the same period in 2017. An average of 40 hours a month was spent dealing with these calls.

Advocare chief executive Diedre Timms said there was a rising trend in the detection and awareness of elder abuse, which could be financial, psychological, social, physical, sexual or neglect. Helpline calls peaked in January, at 90, which Ms Timms attributed to a jump in awareness after revelations of elder abuse at a now-closed South Australian nursing home went public.

“Nobody knows about the prevalence and people don’t actually know (that elder abuse is) anything from taking $20 from mum’s purse to denying an older person all of their assets or preventing them from engaging in the community and with their friends,” Ms Timms said.

It’s predicted up to 75,000 West Australians could be experiencing elder abuse and that 83 per cent of perpetrators are family members.

In 2016-17, 499 calls were made to the helpline and Advocare assisted 1219 clients who were victims of elder abuse.

Ms Timms said Advocare was significantly under-resourced, with six advocates covering the entire State and elder abuse only being one part of its service.

She said an awareness campaign was needed, but did not think creating a separate criminal offence for elder abuse would necessarily work.

“Most people experiencing elder abuse don’t want to go down the legal prosecution route because it’s stressful, can be expensive and probably won’t give them the outcome they want anyway,” Ms Timms said.

“Most people we deal with want to try and maintain the family relationship if possible.”

Last week, the inaugural WA Elder Abuse Prevention Summit was held to identify priorities and contribute to the National Plan on Elder Abuse, which the WA Government is co-chairing with its Federal counterparts.

Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray said: “We need to close the gap between understanding the problem, recognising when abuse is occurring and taking action to stop it. Once the National Plan on Elder Abuse is complete, the State Government will have a clearer understanding of what reforms, legislative or otherwise, may be required to address the issue.”

Last month, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told the State parliamentary select committee into elder abuse that criminal laws should be strengthened when it came to property offences against the elderly.

“I do not think the aggravated penalties attached to all property-type matters have a circumstance of aggravation attached, as they do against personal offences against elderly people,” he said.