Eldercare Law

COVID-19 Edition 5: Has the Covid Crisis Contributed to a Rise in Elder Abuse?

It has now been 4 weeks since Stage 3 of the lockdown started in Victoria. These restrictions seem to be working to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the rate of growth in cases has decreased significantly.  However, with the extended periods of time families are forced to spend together in their homes, plus the added stress of either lost jobs or greater work-loads, family members now face increased pressure.  Whilst the current restrictions may bring some benefits to happy healthy and economically stable families enabling them to spend extended periods of time together, in dysfunctional and disadvantaged families the increased strain and pressure may exacerbate already problematic areas in our society, such as child abuse, family violence, elder abuse, gambling, alcoholism and such, with serious consequences to social stability and welfare.  

In particular, vulnerable members of society such as the elderly are at risk. Elder abuse is a particular form of abuse. It is the intentional harm inflicted on an older adult by someone who is trusted.  Elder abuse can take many forms, such as physical, financial, emotional and even social abuse, by isolating the older person and limiting their access to health and social care services.  With restrictions in place for those aged above 70, aged over 60 with a pre-existing condition or an indigenous person aged over 50, requiring them to stay at home during the COVID-19 restriction period, the following factors may be indicators that these more vulnerable members of society are suffering from some form of elder abuse:

  1. Care givers may be faced with increased stress and pressure caused by the drastic changes to their lives such as job and income loss - This may cause carers to neglect taking care of their elders;
  2. Some may choose to abandon these older adults, as they may lack the financial resources to care for them;
  3. Carers may resort to emotional abuse with hurtful words, or physical abuse, or financial abuse by stealing from the older person's bank accounts or placing pressure on them to sell or access assets they would not otherwise have done;
  4. The elderly person may have a significant decrease in social activity, and may no longer have access to the usual outlets which would enable them to discuss their situation or to seek help.

Whilst, the lack of possible gatherings and visits, may now make it more difficult to identify signs of elder abuse, these warning signs could include:

  • the older adult having a change in their usual self, seeming more worried, fearful and isolated or withdrawn from others;
  • unexplained injuries, unpaid bills, poor hygiene or personal care and the absence of necessary health items such as medications and hearing aid

Hutchinson Legal encourages victims of abuse or members of families who witness or fear the existence of such abuse, to reach out for help.  If we can be of any assistance during this time, please contact our Eldercare Legal Team on 9870 9870 to discuss.  

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