Calls to a Queensland hotline for those facing elder abuse have risen to their highest level since records began, according to a new report.
In 2020/21 there was a 31.8 per cent rise in calls to the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit Helpline, a service funded by the Queensland Government.
UnitingCare Queensland says it received 2022 abuse notification calls, with psychological abuse topping the list (72.9 per cent) followed by financial abuse (62.6 per cent) and social abuse (28 per cent).
“Elder abuse is a horrendous issue, sadly it is more prevalent than many would be aware of, and most frequently occurs within family units,” UnitingCare general manager of wellbeing services, Luke Lindsay, said.
Close to two-thirds of victims experienced more than one type of abuse, according to the report, with pressuring, shouting, and degrading victims the notable categories for elders who suffered psychological abuse.
Callers to the hotline experiencing financial abuse suffered mainly undue influence (32 per cent), followed by misuse of an executive power of attorney (18.6 per cent).
Lindsay said the rise in victim and perpetrator cohabitation was concerning.
“Against a backdrop of a worsening housing situation in Queensland, compounded by COVID-19, there is a very real risk for the largely invisible issue of elder abuse to grow as more adult children move in with their parents to save money or secure housing,” he said.
“And what we know from the data is this doesn’t always end up working, leading to higher rates of elder abuse, and in some cases homelessness.”
Queensland Seniors Minister Craig Crawford said the State Government was committed to preventing elder abuse and raising awareness on the issue.
“The Queensland Government funds the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (Uniting Care) to capture and report this data so we can understand the prevalence of elder abuse in Queensland, and work together on the response,” he said in a statement.
“Any form of elder abuse is unacceptable. We all have a role to play in responding to it.”
Liberal National Party spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the report reflected Government inaction and a dwindling, genuine and consistent effort to combat elder abuse.
“The current Queensland Government doesn’t collect accurate information because there is no strategy in place to truly understand the prevalence and nature of the issue,” he said.
“There is also no consistent definition of elder abuse across all agencies and organisations.
“Queensland’s aged population is growing, and the rate of elder abuse is likely to grow with it. It is a matter of urgency for the Queensland Government to take the abuse of older people in our community seriously.”
The report says elders are fearful of or have experienced homelessness, ageism and expectations around intergenerational wealth due to the abuse suffered.
“The perception of entitlement is also a contributing factor, leading to situations where adult children feel entitled to their parents’ wealth, creating a complex web of financial abuse which is an utterly distressing and unbearable experience for victims,” Lindsay said.