If you’re concerned about an older person’s vulnerability to abuse, these are some of the key steps you can take to reduce and minimise their exposure to risk.
Listen to and include older people
Older people have a voice. But it's often ignored. Simply taking the time to listen to older people gives them the opportunity to be heard and connect with others. Focussing on listening and supporting them to make their own decisions also supports their personal independence.
Respect the views and wishes of older people
Elderly people have the right to make their own decisions and choices, including choices about where to live, how to live, their money and health. You may not agree with their decisions, but they should be respected and honoured unless personal safety is at risk.
Encourage older people to stay on top of their financial affairs
It’s vital that an older person’s financial and legal affairs are in order and up to date. Although it's perfectly normal for an older person to turn to other family members to help manage their finances, the older person should ultimately be in control of them. By knowing where their money is and where it’s going, elders are less likely to become victims of financial abuse.
Encourage older people to take their own decisions
We take it for granted that we get to make our own decisions in life, big or small. That ability can decline as we age. But if the older person is capable of making decisions, they should - especially if they affect living or financial arrangements. If the older person does need help, encourage them to use a qualified and independent professional.
Encourage older people to stay active and healthy
Physical activity is important for everyone, no matter how old. Getting enough exercise every day can help to curb depression and activate ‘happy hormones’. Staying active in old age can also prolong that older person’s life and may decrease their chances for abuse.
Encourage older people to be part of a community
People may feel isolated at any age. Older people are no exception. Connecting them with friends and attending community events can help them establish or keep an active social life, offer purpose and allow them to stay in touch with the people and things that are important to them.
Encourage older people to increase their online confidence and skills
In an increasingly online world, many older Australians are struggling to keep up with technology and can feel isolated as a result. Be Connected is a free Australian Government initiative aimed at increasing the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians. Family and community members are encouraged to help older people access the site so that they can be more connected with the world. Community organisations that are committed to digital inclusion and supporting older Australians bridge the digital divide can join the Be Connected Network. By doing so, they can provide free, personalised training and support to community members.
Use support groups
Support groups allow people to connect with others facing similar issues, and abuse is less likely to go unnoticed. Older people who are a part of a social circle are less likely to become victims of abuse, and they are able to speak with each other about any tensions they may have in their lives. Research what kind of support groups are available and appropriate, then be sure to share your findings with the older person.
Offer caregivers a break
Most caregivers do an amazing job. But they may be overwhelmed with the responsibility and workload. Offering to stay with an older person not only gives you the chance to spend quality time with them, but also gives the carer a break.
Stay close to and connected with older people
Isolated older people can end up feeling depressed, lonely or unwanted. But regular contact – be it through phone calls or visits – mean older people can more easily talk to you for help if needed. You’ll also be in a better position to keep tabs on their daily activities and spot changes in behaviour and offer assistance if you notice they need it. Getting a medical alert system and knowing that help is only a button press away can also be a good option.
Check in on ageism
Everyone holds their own personal views on ageing and the elderly. Think about yours and be open to challenging your own perceptions to create positive outcomes and behaviours.
Once you know how to recognise the types, signs and responses to elder abuse, pass it on. Tell others. Share your knowledge. And be sure to keep asking other people for their advice.
Need information or advice on elder abuse now?
Need information or advice on elder abuse now?
You can call 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374)
This free number will redirect you to an existing phone service near you. This is not a 24-hour line. Call operating times will vary. Created with state and territory government participation.