Elder abuse ‘an issue’ in region

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Six referrals in the last two weeks is evidence enough that elder abuse and neglect is an issue in North Otago.

Coordinator for Age Concern Waitaki, Wayne Stringer, said 26 percent of the district’s population was over 65, with a high percentage at the older end of that group.

“It is happening in our community – psychological, financial and physical abuse and neglect,” he said.

“We had a case that was highlighted last year where a person had dementia and had not been bathed for three to four years.”

Mr Stringer said because Age Concern has a high profile it is usually the ‘first port of call’ and the group works closely with family members and representatives from all the relevant agencies to reach a good outcome for the person involved.

They also act as advocates for elderly people when they cannot speak loudly for themselves and over the last two years there have been 133 cases of abuse, neglect and advocacy.

At the moment Mr Stringer said Age Concern Waitaki is ‘limping along’ on annual funding from grants of $30,000-$35,000 and have put a submission through to the Ministry of Social Development.

He said obviously it costs money to make improvements to peoples’ homes and lives and currently it is difficult to get funding to do this.

Volunteers are out in the community through Meals on Wheels, social visits and exercise programmes and act as the eyes and ears of concerned groups.

“I’d like to think people aren’t falling through the cracks,” Mr Stringer said.

“We have a huge dementia component in this community simply because people don’t understand the problem.”

A working committee operates in Waitaki which includes representatives from Alzheimers, Grey Power, central government, Age Concern, Health Care New Zealand and Heartland Services.

Next week is Elder Abuse Awareness Week and chief executive officer, Robyn Scott, said in a press release that is is vital for people to speak out if they believe an older person needs help

“We urge people to contact their local Age Concern centre or the local authorities if they suspect an older person is being abused or neglected.”

By LINDA MCCARTHY