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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Looking after our elders every day

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Dr Vânia de la Fuente-Núñez, says elder abuse was one of the most hidden forms of abuse in society. Photo supplied.

Ahead of Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, The Fred Hollows Foundation is calling for more community safeguards to protect older people with vision impairment from neglect and mistreatment.

Around one in six people aged 60 years or older have experienced some form of abuse over the past year, according to the World Health Organiaztion (WHO). 

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Day.

Two in three staff have committed abuse

The rates of abuse of older people are even higher in institutions, including nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where two in three staff report that they have committed abuse in the past year. 

The Foundation’s Senior Adviser for Healthy Ageing, Dr Vânia de la Fuente-Núñez, said elder abuse was one of the most hidden forms of abuse in society and older people with sight issues were most at risk of being harmed.  

People with vision impairment have increased vulnerability

Everyone needs to stand up against elder abuse.

‘People with vision impairment often rely on others for assistance with daily activities, making them reliant on caregivers and increasing their vulnerability to abuse.

‘They may experience neglect or mistreatment when their caregivers fail to provide appropriate care or accommodation. Vision impairment can also make it challenging for older adults to manage their finances and others may take advantage of this.’

A recent survey by The Foundation found that 85 per cent of Australians aged 65 and older wore prescription glasses or contact lenses and 38 per cent of people in this demographic have had cataracts. 

Globally, 78 per cent of people who are blind are aged 50 or older (33.6 million people).

Elder abuse can have severe consequences

Elder abuse can have severe physical, mental, economic and social consequences for older people, including physical injury, premature death, depression, cognitive decline, and economic loss.

To better protect older people with vision impairment, Dr de la Fuente-Núñez said it was critical that caregivers and institutions provide accessible support services.

‘These include assistive technology and adaptive devices to empower older adults with vision impairment to enhance their independence and safety,’ she said.  

‘Implementing safeguards, training programs and policies that focus on preventing elder abuse are also crucial.

Shining a light on the unique challenges

‘It is only by shining a light on the unique challenges faced by older adults with vision impairment that we can work towards reducing the risk of elder abuse in this population group.

‘Addressing violence against older populations is indispensable for advancing the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.’

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place on 15 June and unites the world in opposition to the violence that can be inflicted on older people.  

Elder abuse refers to a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, that causes harm or distress to an older person in a relationship where trust is expected. This kind of violence includes physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse as well as neglect and abandonment.  

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