June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an opportunity to talk about abuse and neglect suffered by the elderly members of our community, how to recognise the signs and how to prevent it.

“The physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders is more common than we would like to think”, says Kate Melhopt from South Eastern Community Connect, a not-for-profit community support organisation in Eastlakes.

“Many of our seniors are isolated and marginalised, and we need our community to look out for them. If an elderly neighbour is being neglected, mistreated or showing signs of deteriorating well-being it is time to step up”, she says.

Warning signs to look out for include;

  • Unexplained signs of injury, untreated physical conditions or weight loss
  • Repeated failure to take medications
  • Caregivers who won’t allow others to see the elderly person alone
  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
  • Large withdrawals from accounts and money missing from the home
  • Suspicious changes in wills, policies and titles
  • Services that are not needed such as subscriptions, services or goods and services that are paid for but not received

There are, however, effective measures you can take to prevent abusive patterns getting a foothold. For family and friends;

  • If you are a carer, accept help where it is available, use in-home respite services and look after their own mental well-being in managing the stresses and demands of being a carer
  • Listen to senior citizens and their concerns and intervene if you see the red flags
  • Keep an eye on medications and finances
  • Visit and call as often as you can

And for the elderly;

  • Ask a friend, your local neighbourhood centre or a professional to bring your finances and legal matters in order
  • Maintain your social network and join new social circles – many neighbourhood centres offer free activities for seniors
  • If you are concerned about services you receive and how you are being treated tell someone you trust and ask them to report it.

Neighbourhood Centres like South Eastern Community Connect offer many services free of charge that are aimed at preventing elder abuse.

“We can offer help with banking and bill paying, and can pick up any financial red flags. We have volunteers who visit our clients in their homes to build and maintain relationships with the elderly, and to pick up any concerning changes in mood and behaviour. Our aged care workers also act as another set of eyes and ears when it comes to warning signs in the daily life of the client” Ms Melhopt explains.

“The most powerful tool in preventing elder abuse is, however, supporting and maintaining a wide network of relationships with caring neighbours, friends, family, support workers, health professionals and other organisations that will be able to pick up the warning signs”, she says.

To discuss how our services can help you build that strong safety net and hands-on support, call South Eastern Community Connect on 8338 8506 or contact your local neighbourhood centre.

If you experience neglect or abuse, or know of an elderly person being abused or neglected – speak up. Call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221.

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