I'm a senior experiencing domestic violence
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Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected by the people in their life including their family members, spouse, friends or a caregiver.
Some older people experience violence and abuse while living at home, in the home of a family member or in an aged care facility. This is called "elder abuse" .
If you are being abused, you may feel overwhelmed and shocked that the person you trust to care for you is also the person abusing you. Situations such as:
- An adult child threatening not to allow you to see your grandchildren if you don't do what they want.
- It could be that your carer is your nephew who lives downstairs. He doesn't feed you regularly, doesn't do the laundry, never cleans and slaps you if you complain.
- Maybe a carer in your residential care home is treating you roughly and hurting you, or a staff member is sexually abusing you.
- Or your youngest sibling has control of your finances and won't let you access your accounts to see what is going on.
If you are living in your own home or the home of a family member or friend and need to talk to someone right now who will listen with understanding and without judgement call:
You may feel embarrassed or afraid to speak up because you:
- fear more abuse
- worry about being put in care
- love the person committing the abuse and worry you'll get them into trouble with the police
- worry about being cut off from loved ones such as grand children
- are reliant on the person being abusive
- feel ashamed and embarrassed
- are from another culture where elder abuse is not talked about or you only speak a little English
- don't know where to turn for help
If you are living in residential care, the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline will advise you who to call.
Whether the abuse happens once, or repeatedly it's wrong. No matter where you live or with whom, you have the right to feel safe, have your basic needs met and have access to proper health care.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is a type of domestic and family violence that impacts about *5% of the older population in Australia. It can happen to someone living at home or in residential care.
Elder abuse is defined by the World Health Organisation as "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person".
It's estimated that in most cases, the abuser is a family member such as an adult child but it could be a spouse or other relative. Elder abuse can be physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial but also the result of "intentional or unintentional neglect." It can also occur when the older person is the caregiver and is experiencing abuse and violence from the person they are caring for. Different types of abuse can also happen together such as emotional and financial abuse. Types of abuse include:
- slapping, hitting, pushing, kicking, burning, restraining
- giving too much or too little medication, or none at all
- not feeding you or giving you access to water
- physical restraint — being locked in a room or tied to a chair
- unwanted sexual touching
- sexual assault
- forced sexual activity
- withholding care in exchange for sexual favours
- behaving indecently
- forcing you to hand over money, assets or control of your money
- not allowing you to keep or spend your own money
- not allowing access to your bank account details
- using your pension, credit card or banking/financial documents without your knowledge or permission
- selling your belongings or property without your permission
- being forced to change your Will
- abusing or neglecting powers of attorney or financial management orders
- stealing money, jewellery, credit cards or other goods
- running up bills or debt that you are responsible for
- using your money or property through the misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney
- not providing food, housing or medical care
- not allowing you to see a doctor, dentist or counsellor
- poor hygiene, such as refusing to wash you
- not giving you access to equipment, such as a wheelchair or a phone
- not allowing others to provide care to you
- not helping you after an accident, such as a fall or a burn
- receiving a carers' pension without providing the care
Psychological or emotional abuse
- threats to hurt your or damage your belongings or property
- intimidation, insults, humiliation or harassment
- being treated like a child
- threats of eviction or removal to a nursing home
- stopping you from talking to or seeing your friends and family
- not being able to make your own decisions, such as going out when you want
- trying to convince you that you will not be able to cope without a carer
- withholding affection or social contact unless you do what they tell you
Read more about the types of elder abuse and recognising the signs.
When elder abuse is a crime
Elder abuse has many forms that are against the law, including physical abuse, theft, fraud, intimidation and harassment, stalking, sexual abuse and some forms of neglect.
If you or an older person you know is in danger, call Police on 000.
If you are a victim of a crime, other than life threatening or time critical emergency situations, you can call the Police Assistance Line. You don't have to give your name if you don't want to.
24 hours, 7 days a week
If the crime is serious, the customer service representative at the Police Assistance Line may advise you about where you can make a report or arrange for police to visit you if that is appropriate. If you are calling on behalf of an older person, it's better if you get their OK first.
What you can do
The NSW Government is striving for different agencies to work together to help older people experiencing abuse. Agencies that provide help to older people include the Domestic Violence Line, the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit, NSW Health, and various legal services such as the NSW Trustee and Guardian.
1. Talk to a support service
If someone is hurting you or making you feel uncomfortable and fearful, or if someone is controlling of your life — there is help available.
You will then be connected to the service you want to reach and the translator will help you talk to that service such as a consultant at the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline.
If you live at home with a family member
If you are experiencing abuse at home you can talk to a consultant at the Elder Abuse Helpline. They will listen with understanding and without judgement. They can provide the support and help to find the right services. You don't have to give your name if you don't want to.
You may also want to talk to your doctor. They can arrange help, such as a visit to your home by an aged care social worker. Also think about other supports already in your life - trusted friends, a neighbour, extended family, a community service worker, a religious leader, or any person you may see regularly such as a fellow member of a craft group or other group.
If you live in a care home
If you live in a nursing home, hostel, retirement village or are receiving a Community Aged Care Package, you have the right to:
- quality care in a safe and secure home environment
- privacy, dignity and respect
- express your individuality and independence
- access information, make choices, make a complaint
If you or an older person you know is being abused, you can call the Senior's Rights Service, which is a community legal service for older people. Or you can call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline. Staff at each service will listen to you and can help you find the right support services.
2. Talk to your bank, credit union or financial adviser
If someone has stopped you from accessing your bank accounts and financial affairs you can talk to your financial instituion about:
- Getting access to your accounts
- Stopping any secondary credit cards linked to your account
- Preventing anyone mortgaging or remortgaging a property you own
- Updating your address or other details to keep them private even from family
- If you hold a loan with another person, making sure you both have to sign off on any changes
- Stopping anyone redrawing on any loan you hold jointly
3. Talk to your lawyer
You can contact your lawyer to change your will or revoke a power of attorney or challenge arrangements made with family or a residential care facility.
If you don't have a lawyer, many law firms in Australia now have a specialist in "elder law" which includes estate planning, drawing up wills and other legal instruments such as a power of attorney, superannuation arrangements and also contractual arrangements related to accommodation in retirement homes and other residential care facilities.
If you don't have a lawyer, contact the Senior's Rights Service. They are a community based organisation funded by the NSW government providing advocacy and free legal information and advice for seniors.
Every person's situation is unique. However, those working to support older people experiencing abuse understand there can be particular needs to address for people from the Aboriginal community and those from other cultures.
In some cases, the person abusing you may also need support but this would be provided separately to the help offered to you.
I want to help an older person
If you want to help an older person who may be experiencing elder abuse, it's important to be respectful and take their feelings and worries into account. Consider these tips:
- Ask if they would like to talk. If they say 'no', check in again at another time
- If they want to talk, invite them to a safe location where they can feel comfortable opening up
- Listen without judgement and avoid criticising either them or even their abuser, who could be a family member or spouse
- Tell them that whatever is going on, it's not their fault.
- Assure them that expert help is available but let them make their own decisions
- Familiarise yourself with all the information on this page so you can explain what help is available
- Be patient. Do what you can to help. This could include providing safe internet access, researching their options or just being close by when they make phone calls
It's a good idea to get the older person's permission before you contact an agency or a support service.
If someone is in immediate danger, call Emergency now — 000
If you have concerns but are unsure of what to do, talk to a consultant at the Elder Abuse Helpline. They can help you figure out what support and services are best for the person's needs. You can also encourage the older person to call the Helpline. They can choose to remain anonymous if they call.
Translators are available free for those not confident speaking English.
Call the number below and tell the operator the language you wish to speak and they can then connect you to the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline.
Translating and Interpreting Service
13 14 50
*According to the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference, elder abuse affects at least 5% of Australians or more than 175,000 people. Held in February 2018, the conference was hosted by Senior's Rights Service.
Information in English and other languages
The NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit has information you can print off about its service. The information is in English and also available in traditional and simplified Chinese, Italian, Greek and Croatian. There are also information sheets on financial abuse and the different between a power of attorney and enduring guardianship and also how to revoke a power of attorney.
The information is available in English and other languages.