2 July 2019

Abuse and loneliness

By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.

As I head off to London for the annual Solicitors for the Elderly (SfE) national conference I am reminded about the real world background to some of the legal work that I do.

This year one of the six seminars covers the hot topic of elder victims of fraud and abuse, including that arising within the family. Another seminar covers the role of the solicitor as an important safeguard in managing finances. The Master of the Court of Protection will talk on whether abuse of the elderly could be considered as a ‘hate crime’, with all the stringent penalties that follow. The relationship of family dynamics and abuse of the elderly and how long-standing unresolved conflict, identity and roles of family members, mental health and financial circumstances may influence how an elderly person is treated. We will learn how to identify these ‘red flags’ and what can be done to protect the elderly.

The NHS website states that according to Age UK more than 2 million people over age 75 live alone and more than a million older people say that they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour and family member. People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the work place, the death of spouses or friends, or through disability or illness. Whatever the cause, it’s shockingly easy to be left feeling alone and vulnerable, which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

The idea that technological advances will be able to replace human-interaction has a scarily science fiction quality to it; ticking (or should that be clicking?) boxes, rather than holding hands.

Wells-next-the-Sea is lucky to have Heritage House providing day care for those living in Wells and the surrounding area. The visitors receive a home-cooked two course lunch, the option of a bath and hairdressing, access to a wide-range of public sector agencies support and NHS services, activities including singing, seated-exercise and the garden, and for many most importantly, companionship.

Volunteers are always needed and are fundamental to the running of Heritage House. They drive and assist on the minibuses, help in the garden and, simply, but most valuably, spend time and interact with the day visitors.

In the world of political correctness, a significant proportion of a very vulnerable sector of our population, i.e. the elderly, has been somewhat forgotten as needing special support. In some circles the elderly are even seen as privileged, compared with young people; perhaps this is not unreasonable when looking at the cost of housing. Targeting resources is important, providing the money saved (e.g. on the removal of free TV licences for all over 75) is spent on our elderly citizens where it is needed.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you would like further advice on this matter please contact Miranda on 01328 710210. If you require advice on any other legal matter call 01328 863231or email law@hayes-storr.com.

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