In the past five years, we’ve heard more people talking about Elder Abuse. Some might assume it’s a new phenomenon, but it’s not. Not all, but some older people, are taken advantage of in their later years. This can be because their physical or mental capacity has declined, they are lonely or because they have not put in place safeguards to protect themselves financially. Elder abuse is almost always complex by nature, particularly when family members are the perpetrators.
Elder abuse comes in many different forms. Once up on a time we only associated schoolyard bullying to physical abuse or name calling. As we have dug deeper into the motivators for dysfunctional behaviours, we know there are many different forms of bullying and so it is with Elder Abuse.
It can be physical, verbal, or psychological. But it can also be financial, power based and of course emotional.
The conundrum for people working in health or aged care always falls between, when or should we intervene?
As an aged care provider, VMCH has a policy on safeguarding individuals. Within this policy we state the need to focus on the needs and wants of our customers individually. That being said, the complexity of suspecting Elder Abuse from say a family member, is still contentious, given the person may not want to report their family member.
The purpose of World Elder Abuse Day is to raise awareness that it exists as a real issue in our community. Our job is to work on how to best support the individual, to ensure they are safe while respecting choice.
Sometimes the best we can do is be #readytolisten
There is a range of online resources on the subject of Elder Abuse. For more information, visit: https://seniorsrights.org.au/
This clip, Behind the Curtain, from Eastern Community Legal Centre is also worth watching.
Key stats on Elder Abuse*
- Between 4-6 per cent of older people experience elder abuse. As our population ages, the number of people affected will likely grow unless we can prevent elder abuse
- By 2025 it is estimated that elder abuse will be costing the health system over $350 million dollars per year
- A 2004 study found that 80-90 per cent of abusers of older people in Australia were close family members
- The majority of elder abuse victims are women over 75
- Financial abuse is the most common form of reported abuse experienced by older Aboriginal people
(*Sources: Elder Abuse FAQs – Seniors Rights Victoria, Neglectful to the Point of Cruelty? Elder Abuse and the Rights of Older Persons in Australia – Wendy Lacey, Professor of Law and Deputy Dean, School of Law, University of South Australia, Elder Abuse in Australia – UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Elder Abuse Helpline, 2013-14 annual report, Australian population projections – Australian Bureau of Statistics, Elder Abuse Prevention Action Plan – Dale Bagshaw, University of SA.)