Family members to blame for abuse of elderly

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2003, 12:00am

The abusers of the elderly are likely to be the people they care for most - their children and spouses, recent research shows.

Among 161 cases of elderly abuse jointly handled by Haven of Hope Christian Service and Caritas from April 2001 to 2003, 79 involved people being abused by their own children. Another 38 victims were abused by their spouse, while 36 were abused by their son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

The cases all involved victims more than 60 years old.

The service manager of Haven of Hope Christian Service, Hung Kwong-wai, said the abusers were usually people the victims cared about deeply.

'Many victims were unwilling to reveal their situations as they wanted to maintain their relations with the abusers,' she said. 'However, we found victims were more co-operative if the abusers were their son- or daughter-in-law.'

Ms Hung said the research, which only showed the number of cases handled, could be the tip of the iceberg.

'There are at least 100 elderly people who have contacted us once but refused to accept any further help.'

Ms Hung said many people did not appreciate the seriousness of psychological abuse, which made up more than half of the cases they handled.

'We handled a case in which the victim's family members kept asking her to die earlier, which caused her immense pressure.'

In a separate survey, Hong Kong Christian Service interviewed 507 people over 60 on their experience and perceptions of abuse.

More than 18 per cent of elderly people said children who lived away from them seldom visited. About 7 per cent said they were not supplied with their basic needs by people who were supposed to take care of them, and around 7 per cent agreed with the statement that 'home members treat you as if you are transparent'.

According to a report issued by the Legislative Council's panel on welfare services yesterday, the social welfare department had invited local and overseas trainers to conduct 11 programmes in how to handle and prevent elder abuse.

The courses will be given to 400 professional social workers and 400 non-professionals, including personal care workers and home helpers.