More reports of elder abuse in Limerick region

Safeguarding Ireland chairwoman Patricia Rickard-Clarke.

NEW figures from the HSE indicate a significant increase in reports of abuse of older people in the Mid West region.

A total of 1,041 reports of elder abuse in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary were received by the HSE regional safeguarding and protection team between 2019 and 2022.

The numbers rose from 264 in 2019 to 284 last year which included 150 allegations of psychological abuse, 81 of physical abuse and 78 relating to financial abuse.

The reports relate to various forms of abuse against people over 65 and vulnerable adults.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Safeguarding Ireland chairwoman Patricia Rickard-Clarke said a key issue is what happens after the reports are received.

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“We don’t have adult safeguarding legislation, that is the big gap,” she said. “In terms of reporting, we do not have a legal framework. We do not have anybody with oversight.”

She said while people think of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) as having oversight for older people, it cannot act on individual complaints or individual rights.

“There are lots of issues. So there is no right to enter a premises, a private property and it may be the premises of the person who is being abused,” she said.

“But there is a door-keeper there who maybe is the abuser and who won’t allow entry. If there are reports around issues like that, we need to have access.”

These fears were echoed by Age Action Ireland head of advocacy and public affairs Celine Clarke.

“We have also been calling for an expansion of the legal concept of coercive control, beyond intimate relationships, to include coercive control of another person as a crime in any close personal adult relationship or setting.”

This is based on information shared by callers to the Age Action Helpline.

“Inevitably, there might be an adult child maybe who is exposing the older adult parent to financial abuse, for example.

“There is an element of coercive control in that, in controlling someone’s money or bullying them into spending the money in a way the older person may not want to, or not spending it can also be the case,” she explained.