WDHB and Age Concern Wanganui join forces to highlight elder abuse

9 June 2014
An information display that highlights Elder Abuse Awareness Day (15 June) will greet visitors and staff walking through Wanganui Hospital’s Main Entrance on Friday, 13 June.
While many would prefer to believe elder abuse doesn’t exist, Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) staff say not only is it happening in communities across New Zealand, but it needs to be tackled head on. 
“This year, the WDHB and Age Concern Wanganui are joining forces to raise awareness about the types of elder abuse and neglect which occurs daily throughout our community here in Whanganui,” says WDHB violence intervention coordinator Barbara Charuk.
“Whanganui is very fortunate to have an Age Concern agency which is not prepared to tolerate the mistreatment of our most vulnerable members of the community,” Mrs Charuk says.
“They do a wonderful job educating people about the signs and effects of abuse while also challenging the disrespectful attitudes some people show towards our elderly.”
Mrs Charuk says while no formal studies having been conducted in New Zealand to determine how common elder abuse is in our country, WDHB health professionals and Age Concern Wanganui believe it is widespread.
She says abuse can take many forms including psychological, physical, sexual and financial. Neglect and abuse within institutions is another recognised problem.
Abusers can be family members or caregivers, and sadly, Age Concern says 77 percent of abusers are family/whanau members.
“Age Concern defines elder abuse as behaviour or lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship of trust, which causes harm and/or distress to an older person/kaumatua,” Mrs Charuk says.
“I’m very proud that the WDHB is in the process of formalising policy and procedure around the signs and symptoms of both. It signals our strengthening commitment to end abuse and neglect of the elderly once and for all.”
Mrs Charuk and a staff member from Age Concern Wanganui will be at the Main Entrance information display between 9am and 1pm to answer questions, listen to concerns people might have and to hand out the purple ribbons which represent elder abuse and neglect prevention awareness.