Elder abuse response workers in Hawke's Bay say the number of cases they have responded to has increased in the past year.
It is an often-unreported issue, but as World Elder Abuse Awareness Week is coming up, Age Concern Hastings elder abuse response worker Darren Yeatts says it is an issue very present in the community.
According to The New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing 2014, 1 in 10 people aged 65+ will experience some form of elder abuse.
"Much abuse is unreported ... even around Hawke's Bay it takes a lot of getting our word out there [to] promote the service to talk about what is going on," he says.
Elder abuse often goes unreported as people may have feelings of shame that they are being abused, have low self-esteem, communication difficulties, be in isolation and are fearful of the repercussions of reporting it.
As an elder abuse response worker, Darren fields calls from people facing elder abuse, or concerned family members or community members, talks with the client about what they are facing, offers advice, advocates for them and arranges for support from other services.
He says the elder abuse cases they respond to have increased over the past year.
For the December 2019 to June 2020 period they had 64 referrals and in the December 2020 to June 2021 period they have had 83 referrals, an increase of almost 20 for the same period of time.
Fellow elder abuse response worker Mary Ellen Wierschem believes the increase may be due to a couple of factors.
An increase in awareness of elder abuse may mean they're hearing about more cases.
But she also believes there are wider social issues in the community.
"It's not surprising that elders, who are vulnerable, would be oftentimes taken advantage of when other segments of society are suffering."
There are various types of elder abuse: psychological – which underpins most abuse, financial, physical and neglect.
Most commonly the cases they see deal with are financial abuse which includes misusing power of attorney and using utilities without contributing costs.
Mary Ellen says there are often cases of younger people with drug habits turning to elderly for money or a place to live when their parents no longer want to deal with them.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Week runs from June 15-22 and the theme this year is Elder abuse hits close to home.
Darren says in a big portion of elder abuse cases the abuser is a family member - 76 per cent are family members - often a child or adult grandchild, or another trusted person such as a friend or neighbour.
To prevent elder abuse, it is important elderly people aren't isolated and he recommends they get involved with groups so warning signs can be picked up by others.
Families and friends of the elderly should make sure to cherish them by visiting and calling them, involve them in activities, encourage them to make decisions, encourage them to use their money for their needs, listen to their stories and honour their wisdom.
If you an elderly person dealing with elder abuse or are concerned about someone being abused Age Concern can be contacted on freephone 0800 652 105 or 0800 EA NOT OK (0800 32 668 65).