A CORK advocate has spoken about how older people have confided in him about their experiences of severe, sometimes violent, elder abuse after threats left them too frightened to approach gardaí.
Positive-ageing advocate Paddy O’Brien referred to one disturbing case of an older woman being physically abused by her son in an attempt to extort money.
“He wanted the money for drugs,” Mr O’Brien explained. “If she said no to him, he would kick her in the shins. She said that he would hurt her anywhere where the marks couldn’t be seen because if she had a swollen face people would begin to ask questions.
“Another man stole his mother’s purse. However, his excuse was that she was constantly forgetting where she had put it down.”
Mr O’Brien’s remarks follow the launch of the HSE National Safeguarding Office annual report 2021, which recorded a total of 11,640 cases of alleged abuse last year, a 10% increase on 2020.
Mr O’Brien, who organises the Over-60s Talent Contest and makes regular visits to older people in social clubs and nursing homes, said that cases of elder abuse are becoming more common.
Safeguarding Ireland has called for greater awareness of abuse among the elderly and the link between psychological and financial abuse.
The Safeguarding Office report found that adults under 65 suffered the highest proportion of psychological and physical abuse, with financial abuse and neglect affecting adults over 80 years to a greater extent.
Mr O’Brien said that emotional abuse can also be hugely damaging.
“You’ll find cases where the abusers are not physically threatening but they will threaten not to come and see the parent again if they don’t give them money.”
The positive-ageing advocate has also come across older people suffering from extreme isolation. “I spoke to one woman whose son asked if he and his family could come to live with her. She was delighted that she was going to have some company. However, when they came she found herself confined to her bedroom the entire time.”
He described how many of the people coming to him are suffering in silence. “The people who are affected come to me afraid. They don’t want to tell the gardaí or have any exposure.
“There is a lot of shame attached which prevents people from coming forward. Abuse towards the elderly is an appalling situation.”
More in this section