Action against elder abuse

The government is keen to break the taboo on elder abuse, and to prevent and tackle it where possible, mainly by raising awareness of the problem.

Breaking the taboo on elder abuse

Elder abuse is a difficult subject. Elderly people are not comfortable talking about it, out of either fear or embarrassment. Many also have no idea where they can go for help. It is often difficult for friends, family and neighbours to recognise when an elderly person is being abused, and to bring the subject up for discussion. They often doubt whether their suspicions are correct, and are unsure how to discuss the matter.

As part of its special campaign on elder abuse (Een veilig thuis, daar maak je je toch sterk voor?), the government is distributing leaflets and running advertisements on TV and radio. The message of the campaign is:

  • talk to each other about abuse
  • it is normal to intervene or seek help in the event of violence
  • elderly people need to know where they can get help

Helping people to act when they suspect elder abuse

When someone sees signs of elder abuse, the next step is to do something to stop it. But it is not always a simple matter. Sometimes, the elderly person does not want the abuser to be confronted. Carers – and staff at healthcare institutions, local authorities, banks and notaries – need to know how to broach the subject, and what they can do to stop the abuse.

The government plans to organise regional meetings in collaboration with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and local authorities. At these meetings, care providers, elderly people and their families will be able to exchange knowledge about elder abuse and best practices in dealing with it.

Stop informal carers becoming overstressed

When an informal carer becomes overstressed, it can trigger neglect, incorrect treatment and even abuse of the elderly person being cared for. This can also happen if the carer feels powerless or unable to do what is required of them. The government has set the following goals in 2017:

  • Measures to tackle abusive informal care should be permanently addressed by local policy, since local authorities are tasked with supporting informal carers. They are also responsible for measures against domestic violence.
  • Professionals and volunteers need enough awareness to prevent abuse in caregiving relationships. The government has joined forces with a number of municipalities to develop an information pack to raise awareness.

Preventing financial exploitation

New networks of banks, notaries, mentors and administrators. They are now aware of Veilig Thuis, the advice and reporting centre for anyone who encounters domestic violence.

Better measures to tackle financial exploitation. An alliance to help protect elderly people’s financial interests has been established, with support from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

The main goals are:

  • measures are in place in all municipalities to prevent and tackle financial exploitation
  • volunteers can identify signs of financial exploitation and do something about it
  • all banks collaborate on efforts to prevent financial exploitation

Criminal justice authorities to step up efforts

Organisations that provide care and assistance for the elderly work with the police and public prosecution service to tackle elder abuse. In cases of intentional abuse, the police, public prosecution service and probation service must be brought in as soon as possible. That is why the criminal justice organisations are working to expand their own understanding of elder abuse.

Restraining order for perpetrators of domestic elder abuse

A restraining order  can be imposed on someone who abuses an elderly person in a domestic setting. This creates a cooling-off period during which help can be arranged. The government offers municipalities guidance on restraining orders and crisis shelter services. It also provides advice on how to use restraining orders in the event of elder abuse.