CHARITIES are claiming that abuse of the elderly by relatives or carers has soared during lockdown, and some campaigners are demanding powers of entry to protect victims in their homes.
Victim Support has seen a 17 per cent rise in reports of domestic violence against people aged 65 or over, while Hourglass said calls to its national helpline had risen by at least 30 per cent during lockdown. It said reports of neglect were up by 37 per cent, and were concentrated in care homes.
Among the complaints were elderly people being negligently exposed to the virus, left unfed, moved from one home to another without consultation and cut off from phone contact with relatives.
Hourglass described elder abuse as a ‘hidden scandal’, because older people are often reluctant to report loved ones or carers, fearing they could be forced out of their home and are from a generation that ‘don’t want to cause trouble’.
Added to this fear is the even more fundamental problem that many – including all residents in dementia care homes – simply do not have the mental or language ability any longer to make complaints, or in their terror and distress to understand or to remember what is going on or has gone on. With no family visits to checks signs of abuse or neglect, from bruising to soiled nappies to uneaten food, to shouting at or manhandling of these difficult to care for confused souls, no wonder lockdown has proved fateful, if not fatal, for so many.
Unsurprisingly, the charity Age Concern estimates that only one in 24 elderly victims report their abuse. It wants social services and similar agencies to be given powers of entry to allow them to go into homes to investigate abuse allegations against the elderly as they can with child abuse and the RSPCA can with animals. Such powers have been introduced by the Scottish government.
Granting legal powers to enter premises to check on reports of elder abuse may appear to be an extreme over-reaction, but such powers would not be needed if we all treated the less able like human beings rather than like old dogs that no longer serve our purposes.
Official attitudes to care homes as dumping grounds have not helped by forcing them to take patients from hospital regardless of the potential to spread Covid-19, while ignoring the need for PPE and testing, thus compromising the health and safety of staff and cutting a swathe through residents – sacrificed to save ‘our’ NHS. Would it be too extreme to demand special powers to enter Westminister and investigate reports of insititutional and deadly discrimination against the chronologically challenged?