Reports of abuse on elderly people have tripled following a forum held in Tauranga last month.
The Western Bay branch of Age Concern has gone from receiving eight to nine complaints of abuse a month to 22 complaints since the forum on June 15.
Jane Broughton took over as the local branch of Age Concern's elder abuse and neglect prevention co-ordinator in February and organised the community forum to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. As a result of the influx of complaints, the Ministry of Social Development has extended Mrs Broughton's hours to deal with them.
The majority of the referrals related to financial, verbal or psychological abuse, a lot of which was being done by family members, she said.
Mrs Broughton said she had already dealt with two cases since February where an elderly person's life savings had been cleaned out by a family member.
"This is the money that these people have worked very hard for, a nest egg to make their life easier in the future," Mrs Broughton said.
Often the money was taken in bits and pieces off an ATM card or via internet banking by a family member.
"It can be children who coerce money from their parents and don't repay it or children making decisions for their parents and over-riding their wishes," she said.
There were cases of children stepping in when their parents became ill and "bullying them into resthomes" without the proper authority.
Other cases related to people outside the family befriending an older person and taking advantage of them.
"Be aware of people who turn up in an older person's life. Also be aware if your parent is going through a lot of money," Mrs Broughton said.
The public forum attracted 53 people, some who were attending because they were concerned about elder abuse but did not know where to go to get help, Mrs Broughton said.
Western Bay of Plenty Police family violence co-ordinator Jason Perry said family violence occurred across all age groups and cultures, but older people were often less likely to report it.
"Although we know family violence occurs in the older age group, it's not reported that thoroughly and it could be because they're embarrassed about it and also they may feel like they're wasting people's time by reporting it."
Mr Perry said older people experiencing abuse should contact police.
"We know that it happens in older age groups and when it's reported we'll investigate," he said.
ANZ Bay of Plenty business development manager Shane Southby spoke at the forum in the hope of preventing older people becoming the victims of financial abuse.
Helping older people to ensure their accounts were structured correctly for their situation, that they did not use their date of birth as their pin number and that they were aware of scams would protect them financially, he said.
"They've already done it when they come in to see us."
Mr Southby said the presentation aimed to educate older people about strangers who could try to get their money as well as family members.
"What we see is the ones that are close to them are the ones that rip them off, that's the sad thing," he said.
The next Elder Abuse Forum will be held at the Papamoa Library and Community Center on September 28 from 10am to 12pm.