700,000 Elderly People ‘Are Being Abused’

More than 700,000 elderly people are subjected to abuse in their own homes or privately run nursing homes, according to the results of a new study to be published this week.

{mosimage}The report – the first investigation for a decade to look at the abuse of the elderly in the UK – will say the rate of violence, bullying and neglect is significantly higher than was thought. Although the rates of serious physical abuse and injury are relatively low, there are high levels of neglect, verbal assaults and behaviour that strips people of their self-esteem. The results of the report are so serious that ministers are now planning a complete overhaul of the adult protection system, which could lead to more people being prosecuted.

Care Minister Ivan Lewis, who has been campaigned within the government for the dignity and privacy of older people, said: “We need to have a fresh look at the whole adult protection regime in this country. I want to see a situation where people are as outraged by the abuse of an older person as they are by the abuse of a child. Sadly, we are nowhere near that yet as a society, but that culture has to change.”

Researchers from the King’s Institute of Gerontology in London spent two years collecting data on the prevalence of abuse in private homes. The work is the first research funded by Comic Relief, and it was supported by the Department of Health.

The report will say the harm is often done to those who are particularly vulnerable because they have had a stroke or have dementia and cannot communicate properly. It will suggest that relatives need to look out for signs of abuse.

Help the Aged’s public affairs manager, Kate Jopling, said: ‘What concerns us is how abuse can start from someone being dismissive of an older person to increasing levels of nastiness until it actually becomes an abusive relationship, where needs are being totally ignored.’

Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, said: ‘Abuses of this nature are completely unacceptable in any care setting. It must stop. Care homes have a duty to provide appropriate care.’ Among the public, there is a lack of awareness as to what constitutes abuse, as well as inadequate knowledge of and training for key workers on identifying, reporting and managing the abusive situations.

The government is also to announce a new consultation on carers this week, which will consider how to improve their pension arrangements.