Many elderly people in Ireland are being exploited and subjected to financial abuse by their own family members according to a survey.
The disturbing news comes from a survey of 493 bank staff carried out by Age Action Ireland, a charity that promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people.
It revealed that there were 13,000 cases of abuse of older people reported up to the end of 2013. Many of these cases involved financial abuse, with younger relatives demanding money, stealing possessions and withholding money from older people.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “Every year, hundreds of older people are facing demands for money from family members. To make it worse, in the overwhelming majority of cases of elder abuse, the perpetrators are immediate family members.”
The survey also found that elder abuse was taking place in nursing homes and by home care assistance workers.
Age Action Ireland insist that measures need to be taken by the authorities to ensure that older people are protected from any sort of exploitation and abuse.
They are encouraging banks to train their staff to spot signs that elderly people are being coerced into carrying out financial transactions against their will, and reporting their suspicions immediately.
Nichola Priestley, of Ulster Bank, added: “At Ulster Bank we are conscious of our responsibility to do everything we can to protect our customers. The elderly and vulnerable of our society are at particular risk of being targets for fraud and financial abuse.
“We want our customers to be aware of what we do to protect them, and also help them to protect themselves. Training and awareness workshops play a big part of that also, and we are proud to have partnered with Age Action Ireland for this event.”
Age Action Ireland revealed some of the upsetting details of cases they have seen in the past few years.
One involved a woman with dementia who was persuaded to open a bank account by her son. The son then obtained a credit card on the account and made several purchases which were charged back to the woman. Fortunately, on this occasion the bank recognised the account as fraudulent and reimbursed the woman.
However, there are many cases where the abuse goes unnoticed. One woman lost her home to her son when he moved in with her following the breakdown of his marriage. He refused to contribute to the household bills and also moved his grown-up son into the house.
The woman was eventually driven out of her home and went to stay with her brother in Britain. When she returned, she was refused entry into her own house by her son.
She contacted Age Action Ireland for help whilst living in sheltered housing.