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Niece suspected as thousands disappear from pensioner's account

This is just one example of elder abuse in Ireland.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: jessiejacobson via Flickr/Creative Commons

MORE PEOPLE ARE seeking help from the HSE over elder abuse, a new report has revealed.

The HSE’s review of its services in this area for 2014, published yesterday, revealed the largest ever increase in referrals to the service at 5%.

The three main forms of the abuse were psychological, financial, and self-neglect, and most often the perpetrator is the pensioner’s adult children.

Junior Minister for Social Care Kathleen Lynch described it as “concerning” that incidences of abuse increased with the age of those affected.

Responding to the report’s findings, she said:

“Combatting elder abuse requires broad-ranging responses which go well beyond the investigation of incident reports.”

Respect for older people and and the extent to which we recognise and value their position in society are also very important. The cross-Departmental National Positive Ageing Strategy is designed to foster positive attitudes, and is one of my priorities for the remainder of this Government’s term.

Below are some examples of the abuse faced by the elderly, and how a senior case worker (SCW) was brought in the from the HSE to help resolve the issues they faced.

  • Margaret

One incident involved a woman named Margaret, aged in her 80s, who was living in a residential unit for older people.

She was still capable of making decisions by herself.

The suspicions of management at the unit where she lived were raised when they ran into difficult processing Margaret’s maintenance payments, and with her consent ordered bank statements.

They discovered  that over one year a total of €10,000 had been withdrawn from her account, something Margaret was unaware of. The only person with access to her accounts was a niece, named in the report as Julie.

A SCW was brought in to investigate, and with the help of Margaret’s bank ensured her niece could no longer access the account, and set up standing orders to pay the required fees for her care.

The incident had an emotional impact on Margaret.

“The abuse was stopped and measures put in place to prevent any further financial abuse,” the report read.

“The matter was also referred to An Garda Síochána and legal options explored.”

  • Frank and Mary

Another case outlined the situation faced by an elderly couple, named Frank and Mary, both in their eighties who lived at home with their son David.

The report says their son had a history of aggressive behaviour, and was attending probation and welfare services. The couple’s other children raised serious concerns, alleging aggressive behaviour including physical abuse. Mary and Frank were ‘frightened’ of David, the report details:

David is allegedly often very agitated, aggressive and physically violent towards his parents, other family members and the public. David is in receipt of a Social Welfare Payment. He does not give his parents any money towards his upkeep. He often seeks additional money from them to supplement his income

The HSE’s SCW became involved and convened a meeting with the family. The couple made a statement to gardaí in relation to the abuse, but further legal action was not pursued.

However, a barring order was awarded by the a court, preventing David from entering the family home for six months.

After this period, and once David “had meaningful engagement with probation and welfare services and was focused on not returning to the negative behaviour that prompted the referral”, he was allowed back into the home.

Download the full report here.

Read: Elderly woman loses her home after letting her son move in after marriage breakdown >

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Nicky Ryan

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