Concerned about another?

Man say quietIf you are worried about someone else, try to speak to them about what you have noticed, being as open and honest as possible. Give them the opportunity to talk and listen carefully to what they tell you, offering to seek help if that is appropriate. 

Some people may not want to believe that they are being abused, or may not be aware, or may even be embarrassed about their situation. It is important therefore to be sensitive to their feelings, while at the same time looking for ways to provide them with help and support.

Some people may want to talk but may be worried about how you might react so it is important to stay calm if they begin telling you that they have been abused. Some people may ask you to promise not to tell anyone else about the abuse. Whether you are a practitioner, friend or relative, you should always be honest and never make false promises – sometimes the abuse might affect more than one person and you will have a responsibility to other people too.

You must remember that an older person is an adult, and should never be treated like a child, even if they appear confused and disoriented (he or she can still react to what you are saying and how you say it). Try not to take over or be over-protective, and remember that you should not lead someone into saying something. Try to balance the need of the older person to be heard with the need to ensure you do not prejudice future action, such as a police or a disciplinary investigation.

Equally, it is important to recognise that no-one chooses to be abused. They may choose to live with abuse, but that is often because of other factors, like fear or dependence or family ties.

If it is appropriate, try to explain the sort of people who might be able to help them e.g. health or social care professionals (such as a GP), police, home carers, care-home employees, or volunteers or advocates. Perhaps offer to approach one of these on the person’s behalf. Ask what they want you to do.

Remember that in some minority communities there is great stigma associated with abuse by family members and it is not always true that the older person would prefer to talk to someone from their own community. This may in fact be the last thing that they want, so never seek to use a family friend, neighbour or similar as an interpreter. Seek such services from an organisation unknown to the older person.

If you were correct in your concerns or still have strong suspicions, you can talk to the AEA helpline and seek advice. If you work in health or social care you should speak to your line manager immediately – and remember that you have a professional relationship with the older person. This means that matters of this nature are disclosed to you as a representative of your organisation.

If you suspect your line manager is the abuser then speak to someone in Human Resources or to another more senior manager. Do not keep it to yourself.

You can always talk to the AEA helpline and seek advice, regardless of whether you are a carer, social worker, police officer, friend etc. We are here to help. Ring our helpline on 080 8808 814 or email us: [email protected]

For further advice see our nation specific sites for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland