Reports of family, caregivers abusing elderly up by 17 percent
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Reports of family, caregivers abusing elderly up by 17 percent

Figures for 2016 include 20% in reported sexual abuse, but increase in reports may be explained by rise in awareness

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

An elderly woman was tied in her wheelchair to a fence outside a Ramat Gan shopping mall for some 40 minutes, on August 2, 2016, sparking a police investigation after a passerby snapped a picture. (Channel 2)
An elderly woman was tied in her wheelchair to a fence outside a Ramat Gan shopping mall for some 40 minutes, on August 2, 2016, sparking a police investigation after a passerby snapped a picture. (Channel 2)

Reports of neglect and abuse of the elderly by family and caregivers went up by 17 percent last year, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services reported Tuesday, including a 20% rise in reports of sexual abuse.

“The figures are worrying,” Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz said.

“My office is taking action, but only by joining forces can we eradicate the abuse and neglect of the senior citizens. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us,” he said.

Fanny Hughes, the national inspector for treatment of elderly people at risk, said the rise in reports could be explained by the Welfare Ministry’s efforts to raise awareness about the phenomenon through an increase in the number of teams established to identify and educate about abuse.

The report comes following several high-profile reports of abuse in the last year, including at a home for the elderly.

In August last year, when temperatures were high, police arrested a foreign caregiver who had tied her elderly wheelchair-bound charge to a fence outside a mall in Bnei Brak while she shopped inside.

In December, Israel Radio reported on a Health Ministry study which found that more than 20 old age homes in the country were routinely tying down residents in violation of established procedures.

Employees of a nursing home in Haifa seen in the Haifa Magistrate's Court, where they were charged with elder abuse on March 5, 2017. (Flash90)
Employees of a nursing home in Haifa seen in the Haifa Magistrate’s Court, where they were charged with elder abuse on March 5, 2017. (Flash90)

In March, four employees of a nursing home in the northern city of Haifa were indicted for assault, a month after the broadcast of footage that appeared to show them subjecting elderly residents to extreme mistreatment.

Of all reports of abuse analyzed by the ministry for 2016, 33% related to psychological abuse, 21% to physical abuse and 18% to economic exploitation.

Of the 5,876 reports received in total, 102 related to sexual abuse, a rise of 20% compared with 2015, the report said.

The complaints came via caregivers, hospitals, old age homes and from victims themselves.

During 2016, in the wake of complaints about abuse, the welfare services heard 2,645 cases aimed at protecting the rights of those under care.

The welfare services made 580 complaints to police and 174 court orders were issued ordering the removal of elderly people from their families to external facilities.

Last year, the ministry opened an additional 15 local authority-run units for the elderly bringing the total to 78 units countrywide.

The units house teams which identify and advise on situations of elderly neglect and abuse.

Illustrative: An elderly man crosses the street in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2009 (Serge Attal/Flash 90)
Illustrative: An elderly man crosses the street in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2009 (Serge Attal/Flash 90)

Part of the teams’ work is to raise awareness about abuse among professionals and members of the public and to show them how to identify abuse. They also provide psycho-social counseling to victims to enable them to report abuse, and to overcome fears of the consequences of reporting, as well as group counseling for those who have harmed elderly individuals.

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