Elder abuse at record levels according to HSE report

Almost half of all reported cases alleged abuse by adult children of the victims

Almost 300 cases of physical abuse of older people were reported to the HSE in 2014 – with half of the abuse being carried out by adult children of the victims, according to figures just released.

The physical abuse was however just 12 per cent of referrals which included financial abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. In total there were 2,592 reported cases in 2014 – the highest number since specific services in this area were set up in 2007.

The HSE defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person, or violates their human and civil rights”.

Almost one in three referrals to the HSE elder abuse services complained of psychological abuse, while one in five alleged financial abuse. Neglect was cited in 15 per cent of cases and self-neglect – elderly people expressing concern that they could not look after themselves – represented almost one in four of all referrals.


The HSE report also showed that two-thirds of all referrals related to women, the majority of whom were more than 80 years old. The referral rate was between 3½ and four times greater in the over 80s when compared with the 65-79 age category. The public health nursing service continues to be the main referral source.


As has been characteristic of previous years, the alleged perpetrators are adult children in 49 per cent of cases. The next highest category is partner/husband or wife at 19 per cent, while “other relative” accounts for 15 per cent of alleged perpetrators. Some 5 per cent of cases were classified as “other”, which included landlords and lodgers.

Commenting on the figures, Paschal Moynihan, a HSE specialist in older persons services, said anyone who has a concern about abuse of an older person should contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker.

Since the establishment of the service in 2007, there have been almost 44,000 attendees on elder abuse training/awareness sessions.

The HSE has produced a booklet, Open Your Eyes: Protect Yourself from Elder Abuse which is available online and can be viewed and downloaded from the HSE website.

A DVD is also available from elder-abuse dedicated officers and HSE senior case workers and a helpline is available on 1850 24 1850 Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist