7% increase in Elder Abuse referrals received by the HSE in 2012

Thursday, 25th of July, The HSE published its review of the HSE’s Elder Abuse Services for 2012 which outlines developments in the HSE’s Elder Abuse service last year, and includes statistics in relation to elder abuse referrals.

In 2012, the HSE received 2,460 referrals of elder abuse to its service, an increase of 7% from 2011. There is a greater awareness of the issue of elder abuse and the increase in referrals has been assisted by a number of actions co-ordinated by the National Elder Abuse Steering Committee including: awareness campaigns, training provided to healthcare staff and co-hosting an annual conference that coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There has been an increase of 30% in referrals since the first full year of data collection in 2008.


In total, when referrals of self-neglect only are excluded, there were 1,923 referrals to the HSE last year. Psychological abuse was the most common type of abuse reported at 36%, followed by financial abuse (25%), neglect (19%) and physical abuse (13%). As has been the case in previous years, the public health nursing service is the main source of referral, with hospital/HSE staff and family being the other major sources.

Two thirds of the alleged victims were female and there was a higher referral rate among the over 80 years age group compared to 65 to 79 year olds. As has been the pattern for the last number of years, alleged perpetrators of abuse tend to be related to the abused.

Most alleged abuse is perpetrated by a family member. There was an increase in cases of son or daughter being the alleged perpetrator at 46%, while partner/husband/wife was implicated in 17% of referrals and other relative in 20% of cases.

Commenting on the report, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD, with responsibility for Disability, Older People and Equality stated “It’s disturbing that a small number of older people should suffer abuse in this country. However, there are services available for those people and it is encouraging that a greater number of older people are coming forward each year to voice their concerns. I would urge anyone who is concerned about abuse to seek help and support from the HSE which has a dedicated service in place for older people experiencing abuse. I would like to acknowledge our partners in the community, voluntary and business sectors who are continuing to work closely with the HSE to respond to elder abuse and who are committed to meeting the challenges ahead.”

Mr. Frank Murphy, Chair of the National Elder Abuse Steering Committee stated that “the number of referrals of alleged abuse of older people to the HSE services has increased again in 2012. There has been a year on year increase in the number of referrals since 2008. I would encourage anyone who is concerned about abuse of older people to contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker”.

Awareness raising and training efforts have contributed to the increase in referrals. Indeed, despite budgetary and staffing pressures experienced by the service in 2012, a total of 6,221 individuals received training on elder abuse. 43% of those who received training were HSE staff, while 31% worked in the private sector and 22% were from the voluntary and community sector. This level of training was made possible by the continued co-operation and collaboration with our partners.

Paschal Moynihan, Specialist, Older Persons’ Services, HSE West also highlighted how the service continued its high level of responsiveness, even though referrals had increased, with Senior Case Workers providing a first response to alleged cases of elder abuse within a four week timeframe in 99% of cases.

All referrals of alleged elder abuse are treated in confidence and, as much as possible, handled in a way that respects the wishes of the older person. The aim of the HSE service is to ensure the safety and well-being of an older person while providing support to stop the abusive behaviour. Anyone who is being abused, or is concerned about abuse, should talk to someone they trust or they can contact the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850.

Alternatively, they can contact a health professional such as GP, Public Health Nurse or Social Worker.