Elder abuse up by over 80% since start of pandemic

Over 300 participants joined the talk held over on elderly abuse on March 12. - ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

ROSNAH (not her real name) used to do all the household chores from cleaning, cooking and doing the laundry until she suffered dementia in her 60s.

But at first, neither her husband nor she realised it.

It became impossible for her to do her daily tasks but she suffered because she did not know what was happening to her.

Her husband frequently yelled at her in public, thinking she was just forgetful or even lazy.

Rosnah was in constant fear and tears. She lost her appetite and felt useless.

This is one of the scenarios presented by Dr Low Jong Sern, a psychiatrist from Penang General Hospital, during a talk titled “Preventing Elder Abuse and its Psychological Impact” organised by a non-profit organisation, D’Home Mental Health Asso-ciation.

The talk, which was conducted via Zoom, had more than 300 participants.

Dr Low said according to the World Health Organization, around one in six people of 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in a community setting for the past years.

“The rates of elder abuse are higher in institutions like nursing centres and old folks homes,” he said.

Dr Low says elder abuse has devastating consequences and can have a deadly impact on the victim.Dr Low says elder abuse has devastating consequences and can have a deadly impact on the victim.

Many elderly people suffered neglect and also physical, sexual, psychological, financial, spousal and medical abuse, he said.

There had also been a high prevalence of elder abuse since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with an increase of over 80% during this period, he added.

According to Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, only 23 cases of elder abuse were reported between 2014 and 2016.

Dr Low said elder abuse had devastating consequences and could have a deadly impact.

According to the US National Council on Ageing, elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those who have not been mistreated.

“Elder abuse also incurs high costs.

“In the United States, US5.3bil (RM22.32bil) is spent to deal with this issue each year,” he added.

Dr Low said elderly people were more vulnerable physically and mentally and take a longer time to recover from illness or injury than younger people.

He said older people also had limited earning capacity and financial management ability.

All aspects of their life will be easily affected by financial abuse or fraud.

He said preventive measures such as listening to older people talking about their problems, intervening if abuse is suspected and reporting elder abuse were important to increase awareness on the matter.

Among the strategies that have been found to be useful to prevent elder abuse are helpline numbers, support for caregivers, multi agency collaboration, enhancement of financial management and counselling services plus emergency shelter or protection services.

The public is encouraged to contact the Welfare Department or call the Kasih Helpline at 15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999 if they suspect elder abuse.

People should contact the police if there is violence involved.

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