The strain of caring without support or a break will be impacting her and her ability to ensure George is safe and following the guidance, and may create tension, which could lead to increased abusive behaviour.
The truth is no one really knows how Grace is coping during this period. After years of coercive control, she has no friends and limited contact with family. She doesn’t know how to use a computer, let alone access the internet for help.
Older women like Grace face significant barriers to accessing support during ‘normal’ times. This is particularly true for older survivors who have been subjected to prolonged abuse or are reliant on their abuser for money or care. If a family member or friend was concerned about Grace, even making a telephone call to her is difficult because, more often than not, George is there. As serious as this abuse is, many older women don’t even recognise what they have experienced as abuse, and consider abuse to be ‘something that happens to younger women’.
The attention on coronavirus’ impact on older people has focused on health risks, treatment in care homes, and isolation – not risks from abuse. But lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic may likely increase the risk of older people experiencing domestic abuse, despite misconceptions that those living with others are ‘fortunate’ and ‘safe.’
For Grace, the lockdown will be taking its toll. She is frightened about the virus and won’t leave the house to visit the local shops. Opportunities for professionals, such as the GP or hospital, to reach out to Grace are non-existent.
“We are receiving an increase in calls from concerned relatives, but we have had few contacts from older survivors,” says Carrie Bower, Safeguarding Manager at Age UK. “This is deeply concerning, as we suspect this is due to their limited opportunities to seek support rather than less prevalence of abuse.”
As today is World Elder Abuse Day, Age UK has three recommendations to improve the odds for older people like Grace: