Elder abuse: it’s no laughing matter

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Laughter yoga teaches us to lighten up, to reset our view on life through a positive lens; to forgive and forget.

And I am getting better at practising that most of the time.

When I hear of inexplicable acts of terror  such as the shooting massacre in Orlando, I  am reminded of Dr Madan Kataria’s words after the bombing in Mumbai in 2008. Paraphrased, he said, close your eyes, conjure up the images of those whose lives are lost through senseless violence and breathe for them. Send out your energy through love.

Yet I struggle when 15 June comes around.  On the eve of United Nations’ designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, indulge me please as I digress from laughter yoga and its wonderful benefits and write briefly of this scourge that is elder abuse.

It too is a form of terrorism perpetrated by loved ones.

Statistics just released by Queensland’s Elder Abuse Helpline, run by UnitingCare Community with state government funding, recorded 1,282 abuse notification in the year to 30 June 2015: 86% were elder abuse cases; the perpetrator a family member, usually a middle-aged son or daughter (or daughter-in-law).

The victim is typically a woman – the mother – aged in her 80s and usually quite ‘with it’.

Elder abuse is rarely physical. The helpline statistics suggest 10%. Ditto neglect.

Rather, elder abuse is a form of family violence by stealth, involving psychological cruelty and financial manipulation– threats of not seeing the grandkids if the private school fees, the flash new car and the overseas family holiday aren’t paid for by Nanna; constant criticisms and put-downs; money disappearing from the purse or online account.

And let’s not forget the reported misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney: at least $46 million misappropriated in 155 elder abuse cases, the UnitingCare Community report says.

The people I know who work in community services, law and police say the true incidence of elder abuse is likely to be much greater because it’s underreported. Understandable perhaps: the older generation weren’t into airing their dirty laundry in public.

Then again, they grew up in an era when elders were respected.

There is no excuse for elder abuse.  Please share this post to raise awareness and report incidences if you are concerned about an older person known to you.

The following are state contacts across Australia:

Queensland Elder Abuse Helpline 1300 651 192

ACT Abuse Prevention Referral and Information Line  02 6205 3535

NSW Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 628 221

VIC     Seniors Rights 1300 368 821

SA       Aged Rights Advocacy Service 1800 700 600

WA      Advocare 08 9479 7566

TAS    Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 44 11 69

(c) Heather Grant-Campbell


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