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Primary health: Nurses well-placed to spot abuse.

NURSES ARE well-placed to spot elder abuse and can play a key role in stopping it, says Age Concern chief executive Stephanie Clare--herself a former nurse.

"Everyone has an interest in this and has to stand up and say it's unacceptable," says Clare, as the organisation marks Elder Abuse week on June 15-22.

She said primary health nurses in particular were well-placed to be "frontline noticers" if anything seemed amiss. "They may have a long-standing relationship with that older person, if they have been coming to the practice for many years, and know their situation really well . . . They can watch for these identifiers that might tell us that things are not quite right."

Those might include bruises, pressure marks, scratches, sudden weight loss or frequent visits to the GP. Nurses had the option of either contacting Age Concern on the person's behalf, or putting them in touch with their local Age Concern branch. "The key thing is making sure they can access help."

Age Concern worked with police, Work and Income NZ, health professionals and community housing networks to resolve cases. Its statistics show more than three-quarters of abusers are family members, and more than half adult children and grandchildren. Abusers are as likely to be female as male.

The prevalence of elder abuse was difficult to know as most went unreported, she said. However, the New Zealand longitudinal study of ageing estimated 10 per cent of people over 65 living in the community experienced abuse.

"It might start as a quiet behaviour, like buying a packet of biscuits for yourself, using the elderly person's eftpos card. It's an issue of trust and them not knowing what is going on.

"We need to be made aware of what taking advantage looks like. It's making people feel devalued and not worthwhile." Such abuse of trust could then progress to more extreme cases of physical abuse and neglect, Clare said.

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Title Annotation:section & college news
Author:Clare, Stephanie
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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