Almost 2,500 complaints of elder abuse were made to the health services last year, up 7% since 2011, according to the Health Service Executive.

Excluding referrals of self-neglect, there were 1,923 referrals to the HSE last year.

Psychological abuse was the most common type of abuse reported at 36%, followed by financial abuse at 25%, neglect at 19% and physical abuse at 13%.

Two thirds of the alleged victims were female and there was a higher referral rate among the over 80 years age group compared to those aged between 65 and 79.

HSE helpline - 1850-24-1850.

Most alleged abuse was perpetrated by a family member.

Commenting on the report, Minister of State with responsibility for Older People Kathleen Lynch said: "It's disturbing that a small number of older people should suffer abuse in this country.

“However, there are services available for those people and it is encouraging that a greater number of older people are coming forward each year to voice their concerns.

“I would urge anyone who is concerned about abuse to seek help and support from the HSE which has a dedicated service in place for older people experiencing abuse.

“I would like to acknowledge our partners in the community, voluntary and business sectors who are continuing to work closely with the HSE to respond to elder abuse and who are committed to meeting the challenges ahead."

Specialist in Older Person Services at the HSE, Pascal Moynihan, has said that criminal charges do arise out of complaints of physical and sexual abuse of elderly people.

However, speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Mr Moynihan said that very often situations can be resolved through counselling.

He said in some situations, perpetrators do not even recognise their behaviour as abusive.

In situations where family members are the abuser, elderly people can be conflicted about upsetting family relationships, he said.