Elder abuse in Peel: Spotlight on issue that has 'crept under radar'

They are the most vulnerable people in our community, being exploited behind closed doors physically, emotionally and financially, by an issue that has "crept under the radar" for too long.

This week, the Collie Mail tackles the issue of elder abuse to shine a light on this hidden and shameful issue.

According to Relationships Australia, elder abuse is most commonly committed by a family member of the victim and can take on many forms including financial, psychological, physical, sexual, social and neglect.

The issue was in the spotlight this week for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, hosted on Saturday, June 15.

Media reports exposing the shocking systematic abuse in some residential facilities and nursing homes across Australia prompted the announcement of a Royal Commission last September.

Advocare are an independent, community-based organisation that supports and protects the rights of older people in WA.

Chief executive Diedre Timms said the "terribly sad and complex" issue is under-reported, with the organisation helping only "the tip of the iceberg".

The World Health Organisation estimates 15.7 per cent of of people 60 years or over may have experienced elder abuse, which equates to more than 75,000 Western Australians.

But Ms Timms said the state organisation did not receive anywhere near this amount of calls.

"Most people are so reluctant to report or phone and talk about it," she said.

"Older people usually feel ashamed their family members are doing this to them. They want the abuse to stop, but they don't want to get them into trouble."

Ms Timms said elderly residents can become reliant on others and can be taken advantage of financially.

"I don't think perpetrators even believe they are committing crimes because they see these assets as their right," she said.

"It is sometimes referred to as 'inheritance impatience'.

"They think, 'well I am going to get the house eventually, so I might as well have it now'.

"Or, it could be something as basic as shopping. The child takes the victim's card and has the pin. They do the shopping, but they help themselves to some money.

"They think it's okay because they are doing the shopping, but actually, that's not okay because the older person didn't approve that."

Ms Timms said the issue of elder abuse was not understood "at all".

"I don't think people believe it even happens," she said. "I think we should be ashamed this is happening in our society. This abuse of elder people must stop."

Anyone needing assistance can contact the Elder Abuse hotline on 1300 724 679.

This story Helping seniors fight back first appeared on Collie Mail.