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Monday, 27 June 2011

Recognise and report elder abuse

Elder abuse includes many different kinds of harm to older people. It includes intending to harm, harming without intent and the neglect that leads to harm. If you're concerned that you might be at risk, or are worried about a friend, relative or client, there are ways to help.

Who is most vulnerable?

you can call the free and confidential Action on Elder Abuse helpline on 0808 808 8141

People who are physically, emotionally or psychologically frail and dependent on others for care are most at risk of elder abuse.

Abuse and neglect can happen in the home, as well as in care homes, nursing homes and hospitals. It can involve care workers, family, neighbours, friends or strangers.

People most at risk at home include:

  • the socially isolated
  • anyone with an illness that affects memory or ability to communicate
  • those in a poor relationship with their carer
  • those who provide housing, financial or emotional support to their carer
  • those who depend on a carer who has drug or alcohol problems

If you are experiencing harm through abuse or neglect, or are worried about a friend, relative or client, there are ways to help. You can go to a social worker, GP or police officer in complete confidence. You can also phone the confidential and free Action on Elder Abuse helpline on 0808 808 8141. 

How to recognise elder abuse

Elder abuse may happen once or regularly over short or long periods of time.

The abuse can be:

  • physical – hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, inappropriate restraint, misuse of medication, inadequate monitoring of prescriptions
  • psychological – emotional abuse, threats of harm, threats of leaving or stopping care, lack of human contact, or stopping access to people who can advise or help
  • sexual – all unwanted sexual acts
  • financial or material, including theft from the abused person, fraud, or coercion regarding wills and any financial transactions
  • neglectful or just not doing something, for example ensuring that the person is eating or is warm and clean
  • discriminatory – racist, sexist, exploiting a disability or other forms of harassment or slurs

There are some tell-tale signs to look for:

  • unexplained bruising, fractures, open wounds and welts, and untreated injuries
  • poor general hygiene and weight loss
  • helplessness and fear – or any sudden change in behaviour
  • unexplained changes in a person's finances and material well-being
  • questionable financial or legal documents, or the disappearance of those documents

Find out more on the 'Action on Elder Abuse' website.

Reporting to the police

Some types of abuse - including assault (sexual or physical), theft and fraud – are criminal offences and should be reported to the police. This may lead to prosecution following a criminal investigation.

You may feel too afraid to report abuse, especially if your carer is the abuser. But you are entitled to the protection of the law and to dignity and respect. Anyone concerned about a friend, relative or carer who is being abused needs to take action to prevent further abuse and protect others.

Reporting elder abuse to social services

Local councils have social workers specifically to deal with abuse or risk of abuse. If you want to speak to someone, you can phone your local council and ask for the Adult Protection or Safeguarding Co-ordinator.

The Adult Protection Co-ordinator will help you with advice and information. They will ensure action is taken to give people at risk of abuse appropriate protection and support. They can provide a co-ordinating role and investigate what you are concerned about, in discussion with local police and the NHS.

How to make a formal complaint

You can also make a complaint. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates care homes and inspects every care home it registers. The CQC also registers home-care or domiciliary care services. Any registered care provider must, by law, have a complaints procedure. Services have rules about the staff they employ and the standards of care they provide.

To make a complaint, call the Care Quality Commission (CQC) helpline on 03000 616 161.

You can complain to your local council about the services it provides. All councils are required by law to investigate and respond to complaints.

If you or a relative are in hospital and not being cared for properly, you can make a complaint to the NHS.

Further help

For information and emotional support, call the confidential, free Elder Abuse Helpline, run by the charity Action on Elder Abuse on 080 8808 8141. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

Alternatively, discuss any financial concerns with your lawyer or the Citizens Advice.

The Office of the Public Guardian offers financial protection for people who aren't able to handle their financial affairs and those concerned about financial abuse.

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