Elderly 'unwilling to report abuse'
Some elderly people would not report abuse by their children because they dread the prospect of life in a nursing home, a new report suggests.
The cross-border study, the first of its kind in Ireland, questioned pensioners who ranked psychological, mental and emotional abuse the most damaging.
Pensioners dependent on others because of physical or mental difficulties were most at risk of abuse, with participants in the study believing elder abuse to be most likely to take place in the home.
Age Action Ireland said policies tackling abuse should focus more on empowering older people.
Some 58 people in focus groups across the country were asked questions as part of the 'A Total Indifference to our Dignity' - Older People's Understanding of Elder Abuse' study, including their understanding of elder abuse, forms of abuse, why people experience abuse and how to prevent it.
It found elderly people believed the biggest threat to their well-being was the deterioration of their health, either physical or mental.
Those who took part in the study believed they were highly susceptible to losing control over their future if they required care, with all speaking of their dread at having to go into a nursing home.
Participants said they believed elder abuse was most likely to take place in the home.
But with nursing home care being the only alternative to family care, some participants said they would be reluctant to tell anyone about mistreatment for fear they could be taken into care.
Fear of the consequences of reporting an abuser was also raised by those interviewed while those from Northern Ireland in particular felt it was not helpful to bring in outside agencies like the police or social services.
Researchers, many of whom were also of a similar age to the participants, concluded more needed to be done to tackle elder abuse.
Those who took part said people need to be made more aware of the different types of abuse as most of their knowledge had come from the media.
They called for more community-based support and opportunities, with services allowing pensioners to empower themselves and carry out everyday tasks, stay connected with friends and not feel isolated.
They include personalised bus schemes, social clubs, educational opportunities and home support services.
Extra supports for family carers were also recommended.
Dr Emer Begley, Age Action's social inclusion officer, said: "The clear message coming from groups from both urban and rural areas, north and south of the border, was that the current definitions of elder abuse which centre on the actions or inactions of a person where there is an expectation of trust, can ignore wider societal issues such as the withdrawal of respect and recognition for older people, which participants believed are at the heart of the process which ends in an older person being abused."
The study was carried out by a number of organisations including Age Action, University of Ulster, Queens University, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Social Policy and Ageing Research Centre.
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