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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Elderly abuse reports sky-rocket

Elderly abuse reports sky-rocket

Last updated 13:34 24/04/2011
Elder-abuse reports have skyrocketed since February's earthquake, Age Concern Canterbury says.

Age Concern community nurse Kerry Howley said there had been a significant increase in reports of elder abuse and neglect.

She believed the incidence of abuse had probably not changed, but that new living arrangements were exposing the abuse.

Several cases in which family members or others were abusing their elderly were exposed when the older person moved in with other people.

One woman left her earthquake-damaged home to stay with a couple from her church. When her daughter visited, she physically and verbally abused her.

The couple reported it.

Another elderly couple, who had moved into respite care, were financially abused by their daughter who wanted to get her parents back home where she could control them and their money.

Howley said she had to get the police involved. "It's been amazing, the level of abuse and what I've been dealing with," she said.

Jayne McKendry, Age Concern New Zealand's professional adviser for elder abuse and neglect prevention, said the increase in Christchurch reports revealed what had been a hidden problem.

Reports had also come from Timaru where Christchurch elderly had moved for safety.

"While it's really horrible that people are being abused, the fact that has come out in the end is a good thing," McKendry said.


Colin Davey has always given money to the Red Cross, but now has to accept charity in return.

The 64-year-old Christchurch man spent two days trapped in his bedroom when his Richmond home was flooded with water and silt after the February earthquake. A neighbour waded through waist-deep water to pass him sandwiches through a bedroom window.

"It was cold all right, and every time I heard an earthquake everything rattled," Davey said.

"I was scared at night time. I only had a weak torch and a little radio." His home is wrecked, and there are muddy floorboards where new carpet used to lie. All his furniture and clothes have been dumped.

"I lost everything," he said. "A big garage door came crashing down. It was terrifying. At night time I feel nervous and anxious. It's the worst time. It's not so bad during the day."

Davey believes his River Rd home, which he bought in 1971, cannot be rebuilt because the land is so badly damaged. Three truckloads of silt have been taken away, and much of the backyard is still buried.

Davey sleeps in a caravan at the back of the property, which still has no power, water or sewerage. The Red Cross gave him clothes and neighbours have supplied shoes and some hot meals.

"I always gave to the Red Cross and Salvation Army and they helped me out a lot," he said. "It's a struggle feeling that I used to give them money and now they are helping me."

Davey hoped his caravan would soon be moved to higher ground, but said his hopes for a peaceful retirement were in tatters.

"It's no good moping around here all my life because everything's gone," he said.


Hundreds of carers and elderly are in limbo after a Canterbury home-help provider failed to keep its health board contract, a carer says.

Ali's Home Healthcare, which employs about 400 home carers, has been sent a letter saying the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) will no longer use the service from May 31, a staff member says.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she was one of Ali's home carers and the news had put her in an "absolute panic". She was a single mother and could not afford to lose her job.

About 70 per cent of of Ali's clients were CDHB clients.

She said her clients were sent a letter saying they could keep her as a carer, but she would be employed by another agency, which had a CDHB contract. However, the process was unclear and had left everyone feeling very nervous.

"My clients are in an absolute tizz, thinking they are going to lose me," she said. "With the stress of the earthquake and everything else, it's too much."

Ali's staff had been encouraged to have their clients move to Nurse Maude.

The woman said she did medication for several elderly people, but understood this service would not be offered by Nurse Maude. "I'm so stressed, I don't know what to do. We are not getting enough information," she said. "I want to hear from Nurse Maude and what they say about these things."

CDHB general manager, planning and funding, Carolyn Gullery said Ali's Home Healthcare and a pilot programme delivered by Presbyterian Support Services had lost their health board contracts.

Access Home Healthcare, Health Care New Zealand and the Nurse Maude Association were awarded the contracts.

"As Ali's Home Healthcare was not selected, it is now necessary for their home-help and district nursing clients to be assisted to change to one of the three selected providers," she said.

Clients would be contacted about a new service.

If they wanted to keep their same carer, the employee could be contracted to that new service.

"Our understanding is that Ali's Home Healthcare wrote to their staff to explain their human resources process and we are very concerned to hear that staff may be feeling unclear," Gullery said. "We are happy to work with Ali's and assist them with any further support they may require in order to inform staff fully about options available."

Gullery said the change in providers was not a cost- saving exercise, and the service would not be reduced.

"It was to increase service quality and ensure a better- integrated service so that we get better outcomes . . ."

Nurse Maude chief executive Jim Magee said it was hoped elderly people who received home help would have no change in service.

Ali's staff should be "fairly confident" there would be enough work for those who wanted it.

Ali's Home Healthcare did not respond to The Press.

The Our Elderly series will continue through the week.

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