Not all relationships make us feel good

Shortly after Mary’s husband Norm died, her adult son Kevin moved in with her. Initially Mary enjoyed his company, and was pleased to help Kevin - he had recently lost his job. Soon after though, things changed. Kevin became increasingly angry, always asking Mary for money. Mary was frightened and worried. She was scared to say 'no' for fear of Kevin’s response and didn’t feel safe in her own home.

Elder abuse is any action by someone in a relationship of trust like a partner, a relative or carer that results in harm or distress to an older person. It takes many forms. In this case, Mary is experiencing both financial abuse (Kevin wanting access to her money), and emotional abuse (Kevin getting increasingly angry and intimidating and frightening his mother).

Other examples of abuse are physical (hitting, slapping, pushing, using restraints); social (restricting access to family, friends and supports); sexual (any sexual activity without consent). Abuse can be as a consequence of neglect (intentional or unintentional) – leaving the older person without access to the basic necessities of life. Physical and sexual abuse are criminal offences.

Abuse can cause distress, shame, and create a sense of powerlessness. Older adults may feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone what is happening, fear of retaliation or punishment, and be concerned that they may have to move from their home or community. Access to assistance may be prevented by a sense of family loyalty and lack of knowledge of where to turn.

Everyone is entitled to enjoy respectful relationships, free from abuse. If you are concerned about your situation, you can talk with your GP. You can also talk to the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline – a free confidential service for information, support and referrals, on 1800 628 221 or visit the Elder Abuse Helpline website


Article submitted by Jeannette Walsh, Violence & Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District