Seniors Rights Victoria defines elder abuse as ‘mistreatment of an older person that is committed by someone with whom the older person has a relationship of trust such as a partner, child or other family member, friend or paid carer.’ Where the person is a family member or in a family-like relationship, such abuse will also be family violence.
Older people can be abused by a person they are in a current relationship with or have been in a prior relationship with, including a person who says they are a person’s carer. It is also noted abuse may perpetrated by a family member who is not a carer. Abuse and violence can be exacerbated when others take advantage of or exploit an older LGBTI person’s physical frailty, cognitive challenges or dependence on them. It is vital advocacy services, aged care providers and family violence services support LGBTI elders with information on how to assert their rights in ways which preserve the family relationships they value.
Many older LGBTI people are fearful of the health, care, advocacy and justice systems due to past experiences of persecution, anti-LGBTI legislation, criminalisation and imprisonment of LGBTI people, and harmful medical and psychiatric practices. This can lead to a reluctance to seek support or disclose abuse. This is particularly the case when abuse is due to another person’s response to their LGBTI characteristics, or it is from an intimate partner or other family member: most frequently adult children. Advocacy, aged care and family violence services need to build relationships of trust with LGBTI elders to ensure they feel safe to be out and/or to live in their affirmed gender.
Fears about whether they will be able to access inclusive and appropriate aged care services can be a significant concern for older LGBTI people, particularly for trans and gender diverse people who may fear pressure not to live in their affirmed gender. Experiences of ageism, the fear of losing independence and concerns they may lose contact with family members who perpetrate abuse, or get them in trouble, may prevent older people seeking help for family violence. This can result in older LGBTI victims remaining in dangerous situations, particularly if they do not trust that aged care providers will respect them.