Being 'eyes and ears' to spot elder abuse

Being 'eyes and ears' to spot elder abuse
Community leaders undergoing training to identify cases of abuse in neglect in adults at a Care Corner in Commonwealth.

SINGAPORE - An old, senile woman may be hit by her son and prevented from going to the doctor. A mentally retarded man could have his hands tied up against his will by his caregiver.

More people are learning how to spot signs of abuse among the old and disabled, so victims do not fall through the cracks.

A pilot training programme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development is the latest in a slew of measures being rolled out to help Singapore cope with its greying population.

Half-day sessions, conducted by family violence agencies since May, teach social workers and volunteers how to identify cases of abuse, with a checklist called the Elder Abuse Suspicion Index. They are trained to watch for instances in which the elderly are stopped from getting food, or feel shamed or threatened, for instance.

The programme is helping to build a strong community effort to watch over Singapore's elderly population, estimated to be 900,000-strong by 2030, said Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Speaking at a training session at agency Project Start in Commonwealth, he added that it is important that caregivers from family service centres and senior activity centres and eldercare providers are equipped with the tools for early detection of abuse and intervention as they are often the ministry's "eyes and ears on the ground".

So far, 250 participants have attended five training sessions conducted by three family violence specialist centres - Project Start, Pave in Ang Mo Kio and Trans Safe in Bedok.

The aim is to reach out to 150 more people by next June, with the course acting as a refresher for professionals such as social workers, as well as teaching others who may have no expertise in the area, including grassroots leaders and volunteers.

The checklist allows participants to assess whether they need to refer suspected cases of abuse to specialists.

Social work assistant Kelvin Ang, 43, who helps distribute food to the needy elderly folk living in Queenstown, said the course has been useful.

"The checklist reminds me to ask about the different types of abuse an elderly person may suffer," he said. "Now I also know when to report suspected cases of abuse."

This article was first published on Dec 03, 2014.
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