Shoalhaven residents have been urged to reach out to older members of the community as cases of elder abuse have risen.
South Coast Police Department district inspector David Cockram said elder abuse trends had increased in the region.
Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. The abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual, and includes neglect. The harm caused to an elderly person can range from the unintended effects of poor care through to deliberate physical injury.
Calls to the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit increased by 77 per cent since 2013-14.
Family members made up more than 72 per cent of alleged abusers in 2016 and 2017.
President of the Shoalhaven Law Society Paul Ell has urged community vigilance to identify and act on elder abuse.
Mr Ell said the issue was insidious and shocking. He said the starting point for detection was to reach out to older people and have a conversation.
"These conversations with potential victims and their families can be thought of as a 'wellbeing checklist' and includes asking questions about whether the person has regular contact with their family and friends, the freedom to spend their own money, medical attention when they need it and if they feel safe at home," Mr Ell said.
"I can't think of anything worse than an act of abuse being committed against the most respected and revered members of our society.
"Older Australians deserve our respect, care and support. They should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and peace of mind."
The warning signs of elder abuse include:
- Someone close to an older person attempting to isolate them.
- Changes to a will or other legal documents are forced quickly or unexpectedly.
- Older individuals expressing fear, anxiety, confusion and loss of trust.
- Unexplained amounts of money missing from bank accounts, a lack of money for day to day items or unpaid accounts.
- Loss of jewelry or personal belongings.
- An older person who is hungry, thirsty or has lost a lot of weight.
- Living in an environment that is dirty or unsafe.
People have been encouraged to call the Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit on 1800 628 221 if experiencing abuse.
Call 000 in the case of an emergency.
Visit www.elderabusehelpline.com.au for more information.