ALONE highlights isolation among older people as a key cause of abuse on World Elder Abuse Day, June 15th
ALONE is supporting the HSE’s Hear Me, Support Me, Challenge Elder Abuse campaign this World Elder Abuse Day.
ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home, sheds light on the distressing trend of increasing safeguarding concerns they have witnessed over the past year this World Elder Abuse Day.
ALONE has indicated that increased levels of loneliness and isolation, mental health difficulties, and the housing crisis are key factors in the worrying trend, all of which can lead to hidden cases of abuse.
In 2022, the number of cases we dealt with relating to elder abuse more than doubled, compared to 2021. Already in 2023, we are seeing an increase on cases year on year again. It is important to stress that these are only the cases we get to hear about.
ALONE believes that addressing elder abuse effectively requires tackling the underlying issues of isolation, loneliness and mental health problems, which can serve as a catalyst for a range of abuses. Loneliness can be a silent and insidious force that erodes the well-being of older adults. Loneliness leads older people vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to the fact they are increasingly reliant on others, and in some cases are relying on just one person for all of their support needs.
Speaking at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) Conference in Trinity College Dublin, Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, expressed concern over the rising trend: “It is deeply distressing to witness the doubling of older people coming to us with safeguarding issues, highlighting the urgent need for safeguarding legislation. Abuse can take many forms: financial, emotional, physical, sexual, verbal, discrimination, and neglect. Loneliness acts as a breeding ground for abuse, as isolated older people become easier targets for exploitation. As we observe World Elder Abuse Day, we call on society to recognise the profound impact of isolation and loneliness on older people and take decisive action to address this issue.”
In addition to addressing the impact of loneliness, ALONE underscores the vital role of adequate housing options in safeguarding older individuals. Inadequate housing often exacerbates the risk of abuse and neglect among older people, leaving them exposed to precarious living conditions and vulnerable to exploitation. The current housing crisis, which is resulting in adults living at home with their older parents for longer, can create the conditions for elder abuse to occur. In addition, proposed changes to the Fair Deal Scheme may lead to older people being put under pressure to go into a nursing home so that rental income can be gained from their property, or that family members can move in. The additional benefit of suitable and available housing for older people is that it reduces the need and cost of institutional care.
ALONE acknowledges that creating a strong NGO network and more dynamic communities are key to protecting older people from relying solely on just one person for support, creating meaningful social connections and making it easier to avoid elder abuse. We are supporting and collaborating stakeholders across the sector with our Community Impact Network, to build capacity, deliver support through shareable models of services, and advocate for meaningful change that will prevent elder abuse occurring in the first instance.
Mr. Moynihan went on to say, “We believe there are several actions that can be taken on the policy stage to reduce the number of older people at risk of abuse. For a start, The Adult Safeguarding Bill has been in committee stage in the Seanad since 2021, after first being tabled in 2017. An Adult Safeguarding Bill is included in the Summer legislative programme for Government, to underpin a planned national health sector policy on safeguarding vulnerable or at-risk adults in the context of their interactions with the health sector. This is welcome, but safeguarding is broader than the Department of Health and the HSE. It belongs to all of us and across all sectors. An urgent response on this is needed.”
He continued, “In addition to this, more units of Housing with Supports and other housing options would give older people more autonomy over their own decision making and more control over their own finances. An action plan on loneliness, which has been a key ask of ALONE on behalf of the older people who we support is also needed to reduce the risk of abuse.”
On this World Elder Abuse Day, ALONE urges people, communities, and government to join forces in combatting elder abuse by addressing the underlying causes of loneliness and striving to create inclusive societies that prioritise the well-being and dignity of older adults.
Moynihan concluded, “We want to educate older people about their own rights and if they have any concerns, we and other organisations are available to offer them independent advice and support. If you are concerned about yourself or about an older person you know, call us on 0818 222 024 or email us at [email protected]. If you have immediate concerns about your safety or welfare or that of an older person in your life, please contact An Garda Síochána immediately.”
The HSE has Safeguarding and Protection Teams are in place in every region of the country and are responsible for adult safeguarding within services for older persons and services for people with disabilities.
Older people can also access support through their local health centre, GP, Public Health Nurse, or the Garda Síochána.