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A woman who works with victims of elder abuse says she has already seen 26 cases this year, including a woman pushed over by a caregiver and breaking her hip and a patient being given too much medication.
Age Concern's elder abuse coordinator for Auckland Emsie Walters said another elderly woman told her that she was told to get into the shower by a caregiver who then washed her, including her genitals, although the woman was able to wash herself.
"She told me that she felt as if she was a prisoner in a prisoner of war camp," Ms Walters said.
It was revealed on Sunday that a worker stuck wide medical tape across a rest home resident's mouth and jaw because she was making too much noise. The woman is deaf and cannot speak.
The case is being investigated by the Ministry of Health, police and aged care organisation Healthcare Providers.
Ms Walters said the case was "out of the ordinary" but abuse did happen in rest homes.
She said threats against rest home residents were often not physical but "you do this or else".
"I've never heard of one where someone was gagged before but often a lot of older people talk about how upset they get when threats are made and there is no respect for them," she said.
"The saddest thing in the world is a lot of the elderly have got nobody in the world, nobody to stand up for them and nobody to be there," Ms Walters said.
She said families and old people found it hard to lay complaints because they felt they were at the mercy of rest homes.
"They're scared of what might happen. Imagine leaving your mum or dad in a home and thinking: I've told tales. What's going to happen to them now that I've gone?"
She said elder abuse covered sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse and psychological abuse.
Ms Walters said psychological abuse was the most prevalent because it went "hand-in-hand" with other forms of abuse.
Age Concern operates a service where abused elderly people can contact them for help. They also provide education and awareness sessions in rest homes.
"There aren't enough of us and there are times when the law does not protect old people because they are so vulnerable. They're often isolated," Ms Walters said.
The rest home where the incident happened, Belhaven, is a member of the country's largest association of aged care residential providers, Healthcare Providers.
CEO Martin Taylor said Healthcare Providers would be launching its own investigation into Belhaven to ensure it met the organisation's code of conduct.
"If they haven't then we'll cancel their membership," he said.
But he said 40,000 elderly were listed as being in care in 2007 and the number of complaints reported was relatively small. He said 99.9 per cent of caregivers do a good job.
Mr Taylor said people needed to do their homework when choosing a rest home.
"It's just like when you go into a DHB hospital. Do you know you are going to get good care from a doctor or a nurse? The chances are you're going to get good care," Mr Taylor said.
"We have a very robust system of registration in New Zealand which seems to be one of the best in the world," Mr Taylor said.
He said his organisation first heard of the claims about Belhaven and forwarded them to the Ministry of Health.
"There is no systemic problem with the quality of care in New Zealand," he said.
A study commissioned by the Families Commission and released in January found that older people were less likely to be abused if they understand their rights, have a strong sense of self worth and positive relationships with families.
The study found that elderly people living in isolation with poor mental or physical health and stressed families are more likely to face abuse and neglect.
The report gathered views of a wide range of different organisations, individuals and experts on how and why elder abuse and neglect occurs and what can be done to prevent it.