'Over 100 clients': Spotlight on elder abuse in Peel region

Peel Senior Relationship Service manager Charmaine Kennedy says about 85 per cent of elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member. Photo: Supplied.

Peel Senior Relationship Service manager Charmaine Kennedy says about 85 per cent of elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member. Photo: Supplied.

There's no denying the past year has increased the vulnerabilities of the elderly.

In the Peel region, where nearly 23 percent of the population is over 65, instances of elder abuse are the highest in WA, outside of the Perth metropolitan area.

Pilot program, Peel Senior Relationship Service, which is one of two mediation case management programs of its kind in WA, is working to minimise instances of elder abuse.

"Elderly abuse can be financial, physical, psychological, or emotional," Peel Senior Relationship Service manager Charmaine Kennedy said.

"Over the last couple of years we've seen a number of people presenting with elder abuse of one form or the other. We've seen over 100 clients."

With about 85 per cent of abusers being family members, Ms Kennedy said it was difficult for the elderly to reach out for help.

"The elderly are finding it very difficult to report their own family members," she said.

"They often don't want their family members to be reported so we have to look into how they can stay safe within the family dynamic they are living in."

Peel Senior Relationship Service held a forum to discuss elder abuse in the Peel region. Photo: Supplied.

Peel Senior Relationship Service held a forum to discuss elder abuse in the Peel region. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Kennedy said this issue had exacerbated over WA's three lockdowns.

"COVID-19 isolated the elderly even more in terms of being able to make a call when they are living with the perpetrator.

"They have to find a time to make that call when the perpetrator is not in the home.

"Many aren't very good with technology so that was also a huge hurdle trying to navigate through a system they weren't brought up with."

In the hopes of promoting community education on elder abuse and the issues impacting seniors, Peel Senior Relationship Service hosted a forum.

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Ms Kennedy said she wanted to highlight the importance of early intervention strategies and start a dialogue with agencies to inform future policy.

"There's quite a few things that need to change," she said.

"Legal representation is a big issue. A lot of these people if they don't have the money they can't afford to take the case any further.

"We've had to source people within the legal profession who are willing to work pro bono so we can assist the elderly with this process."

She also made mention of how it was too easy to become a power of attorney.

"The other thing that's lacking is there is no register for power of attorneys or guardianship and that means anybody can go and become a guardian even when they could be the abuser.

"Many elderly people sign papers and they don't know what they're signing and then the abuse perpetuates."

What to do if you suspect elder abuse

  • While elder abuse can be distressing, if you suspect someone may need support, ask about the person's well-being - be quick to listen and don't judge.
  • Take note of signs and symptoms that may help those who investigate and reassure the older person that there is help available and provide them the contact details of a relevant support organisation.
  • If someone is in immediate danger, call 000.