More senior citizens abused

9th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

Number of complaints of abuse rose sharply last year, reports Flemish Support Unit.

9 April 2008

BELGIUM - More and more cases of abuse of seniors are coming to light. The number of complaints filed with the Flemish Support Unit for Abuse of Seniors rose sharply last year.

In 2006, only 437 cases were reported, but by 2007 the number had shot up to 516. People in the 80 to 84 age category are the most frequent victims of abuse.

Gerd Callewaert of the Support Unit says that the figures only show the tip of the iceberg.

At one time, it was calculated that up to 20 percent of seniors could be the victims of abuse.

This corresponds to 280,000 possible victims across Flanders.

Often, the authorities or care workers are not alerted to the abuse because of the taboo that surrounds the entire subject. People around the victims close their eyes to such abuse.

In many cases, victims are concerned about reporting abuse out of fear for reprisals.

Who are the abusers?
Most of the victims are women. The abuse is usually perpetrated by a relative.

Sons are the most frequent tormentors of the elderly, but daughters also abuse their parents. In some cases, the abuse is even caused by partners.

Psychological abuse is the most widespread. This is followed by financial abuse and physical abuse. The picture differs from the situation abroad where physical abuse is most common.

The figures also show regional variations. Most of the cases were reported in East Flanders. Only 12 reports of the abuse of Dutch-speaking seniors in Brussels were filed.

Problems in the provinces
Callewaert points to a recent decision of the former Health care Minister Inge Vervotte.

She released more funds for the Flemish Support Unit at the expense of provincial centres.

Callewaert says that as a result more people are aware of his unit, but at a provincial level they often don't know where to turn.

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