Tackling abuse of the elderly

Donna Pierpoint is the manager of Sheffield's renowned Broomgrove Nursing Home. She has 20 years experience in the sector, a decade of those as care home manager.
Donna Pierpoint is the manager of Sheffield's renowned Broomgrove Nursing Home. She has 20 years experience in the sector, a decade of those as care home manager.
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I asked a group of A level students how many cases of child abuse they could name recently.

From the Rotherham abuse scandal to Baby P, the question brought about a flood of answers and talking points. I then asked if they could name a charity devoted to the prevention of child abuse. The NSPCC was the name on everybody’s lips.

I then asked them how many cases of elderly abuse they could name. The room was virtually silent.

I followed that by asking them if they could name a charity devoted to the prevention of elderly abuse. Nobody had ever heard of Action of Elderly Abuse (www.elderabuse.org.uk).

Cases of abuse among the elderly are at alarmingly high levels yet so much goes unnoticed and, in many cases, unchallenged. Abuse of the elderly doesn’t create headlines like child abuse but it’s no less important.

A recent reported pointed to 300 suspected cases being reported every day – that’s 105,000 a year. Cases have risen by a staggering 28 per cent in recent months.

Much more needs to be done to educate society on elderly abuse .

We experienced a sad case recently when a resident was admitted for respite with bruises to her face, legs and arms.

We were concerned these had been caused by the next of kin, and we were right. But it was the husband that needed as much support as the ‘victim’ – and that’s not unusual.

The husband had been sole carer of his wife who was suffering with dementia. He’d been looking after her, on his own, for 20 years with hardly any support.

She was increasingly violent to him and the bruises to her face were caused by him trying to get her to open her mouth to take her medication. Bruises to her arms were caused by him trying to get her into bed.

This, sadly, was not the wife he had years of happiness with. Can you imagine living like that 365 days a year with no respite?

He broke down when she was admitted and said: “I can’t do this any more.” Thankfully we were able to help by supporting him to find her a suitable home.

Broomgrove unfortunately doesn’t specialise in advanced dementia and couldn’t care for her on a permanent basis.

Help is out there.