Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Elder abuse reportedly increased by 13% in Ireland

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Irish Times has reported that the incidence of elder abuse has risen by nearly 13% in 2010.  Is it that people are now reporting elder abuse or is it that the actual rates of elder abuse are increasing?

The Irish Times reported:
More than 2,000 cases of elder abuse were reported to the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, up almost 13 per cent on the previous year.

The figures, presented at the annual conference of the Irish College of General Practitioners in Galway at the weekend, show that in 95 per cent of cases the abuse was alleged to have occurred in the older person’s home. Gardaí were notified about some 17 per cent of cases.

About 65 per cent of the alleged victims were women and half the victims were over 80 years of age.

The cases were notified to the HSE in the first instance by public health nurses in 33 per cent of cases, by other HSE staff in 16 per cent of cases, by families of older persons in 12 per cent of cases, by hospitals in 11 per cent of cases and by GPs in 2 per cent of cases.

The data was presented by Oonagh McAteer, elder abuse officer for the HSE Dublin Mid- Leinster region, who said it was likely more cases of elder abuse were reported last year than in previous years due to a greater awareness of the elder abuse services provided by the HSE. There are senior social workers dealing with reported cases of elder abuse in each of the HSE’s areas.

A total of 2,110 cases of elder abuse were reported last year, up from 1,870 in 2009 and 1,840 in 2008. Ms McAteer said the indications were these figures under-represented the prevalence of elder abuse, which can take many forms, including psychological abuse, financial abuse and neglect, as well as physical and sexual abuse. She urged GPs to be alert to cases of elder abuse saying risk factors included being a woman of advanced age living in an intergenerational household and being socially isolated.

One GP questioned how many cases of elder abuse were perpetrated by the HSE as a result of leaving older people on trolleys in hospital emergency departments.
The Irish government is attempting to create more abuse about the scourge of elder abuse and they are attempting to protect seniors by making it a requirement to report incidence of elder abuse. Whether or not the increased incidence of elder abuse is related to increased reporting, it is important to note that society must improve protections for its elderly citizens.

The concept of legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide actually removes protections for elders who are often dependent on family members or medical care givers who do not respect the right of the vulnerable elder to live.

Societal discrimination that exists toward people with disabilities is very similar to the attitudes towards vulnerable elders. Many elderly people become people with acquired disabilities and they experience a very similar negative social attitude that people with disabilities experience.

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