Elderly Domestic Violence: What To Do If You Spot It


Posted on: 09 September 2016 by Lucy Taylor

How to intervene and engage in a delicate situation which elderly domestic violence clearly is.

Though domestic violence cases often make their way into the public eye, the majority of the survivors and victims represented are on the younger end of the age spectrum, leaving elders in the dark. This hidden demographics’ plight is further compounded by other factors: elders may experience abuse from more sources including family or institutional figures; others may not interpret injuries the same way, often assuming that they probably occurred in an age-related accident, like a fall; or elders may lack the cognitive or physical faculties necessary to defend themselves. For these reasons, elder abuse often goes severely underreported, especially when no one is available to act on behalf of the survivor. If you notice elder abuse, here are a few actions you can take to help:


Recognize the signs and don’t waste any time

Many abusers follow a cyclical pattern of violence. This can begin with seemingly small slights, such as verbal put-downs or financial deceit. And often, this cycle escalates to more severe violent outbursts. The cycle then re-starts and is usually preceded by the abuser attempting to make amends to their victim, at which point the survivor may actually forgive the person. So it’s important to recognize that not all signs manifest as injuries. Further, it’s important that if you do see any degree of abuse, you report it immediately. Don’t turn a blind eye by assuming any ‘best case scenarios.’


Tell someone

Certain parties are better equipped to handle cases of elder abuse, such as hospital staff (including doctors and nurses), social workers, or others helping to provide care. It is important to first determine that the person you are going to isn’t the source of the abuse. And if the abuser is an institutional figure, seek a meeting with their supervisor instead.


Lend an ear

Listen to the survivor’s ordeal. Be careful to listen well, and do not interrupt or overshadow their circumstances with your own experiences. Ask questions, offer advice and resources, and generally be someone they can seek refuge in the company of. For extra tips on how to listen more effectively, check out MindTools.


Don’t engage in victim blaming

While this point is similar to listening compassionately, it is also deserving of its own headline. Under no circumstances should you ever blame the survivor for the abuse inflicted upon them. Never suggest that they were inviting it to happen, that they were acting like an easy target, or that they are exaggerating their account of events.


Seek legal assistance

If the survivor is keen to seek justice for the abuse they have endured, it is best to put them in touch with a legal representative. Firms like LY Lawyers can offer assistance in NSW, and harbor a broad range of expertise. They also include multi-channel communication options that operate at all hours of the day.


Advocate on behalf of your elders

Become an advocate for survivors of elder abuse. Check out community events related to domestic violence and use your voice to put elder abuse on peoples’ radars. Speak up for those who often cannot. Be their representative and champion. You can also volunteer in a retirement home or hospice care, where you have the chance to talk to and advocate for the safety of elderly people.


While these tips help to address the more drawn out course of action for elder abuse, it’s also important to know how to handle an emergency situation. In some cases, the person may be in imminent danger. Should this be the case, contact the authorities immediately.

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