However, Oonagh McAteer, an elder abuse officer with the HSE, said it was felt that elder abuse was hugely under-reported and the yearly incidence of abuse could be five times this number.
She said there had been 2,110 referrals of cases of suspected elder abuse made to the HSE last year. In 70% of cases the elderly people involved have been over 75.
Ms McAteer told the meeting in Galway that 30% of cases were psychological abuse, followed by neglect and financial abuse at just under 20%, followed by physical abuse at 12%.
She said there was a misperception that elder abuse was mainly happening in nursing homes. However, HSE data showed that 82% of abuse victims were living at home and 95% of abuse was alleged to have occurred in a person's place of residence.
Ms McAteer said the person most often causing concern was a family member and in 46% of cases a close family member, son or daughter. In over half of the cases the alleged abuser and victim lived together. The data showed that that 62% of alleged victims were women.
She said a study published last year by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP) showed that 2.2% of older people felt they had experienced abuse or neglect in the previous year.
This indicated that there could be 10,000 elder abuse cases in any one year.
Ms McAteer said when the NCPOP study was broadened out to include any episode of mistreatment or abuse over the age of 65, it was estimated that nearly 19,000 people in Ireland are victims.
Prof Cecily Kelleher, head of the UCD School of Public Health, told the meeting there were high rates of heart disease, respiratory conditions and suicide among the Traveller community and the smoking rate in the community was 60%.
Discussing details from the All Ireland Traveller Health Study, she said there was virtually nobody over the age of 50 among travellers.
Prof Kelleher said there was a higher level of discrimination among travellers in Ireland than that encountered by the African-Americans, Hispanic and Latino populations in the United States.
SOURCE: The IrishHealth
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