Abuse of the elderly must be stopped
THE term elder abuse incites visions of extreme cases such as those involving the now closed Oakden aged care facility.
In fact, the treatment of frail older people described in those types of tragic examples is only part of what defines elder abuse.
The most common type of abuse is financial abuse, including abuse of powers of attorney, misuse of an older person’s money, fraud, and appropriation of finances or assets.
On reflection, my own mother was subject to financial elder abuse when she was vulnerable and needed support and I wasn’t sufficiently alert. Further, for financial abuse to go undetected, perpetrators may also socially isolate the older person by restricting their access to family, friends and medical practitioners – known as social abuse.
Less common is sexual abuse, such as unwanted touching or being forced to watch pornography.
The final form of abuse is neglect. As elder abuse is perpetrated by a person of trust, it largely occurs within the family, and to a lesser extent within neighbourhoods and care environments.
It’s a concept most of us find difficult to understand, much less accept as a daily occurrence. Yet awareness of this abhorrent issue is the first step towards addressing it.
We don’t have specific data on the prevalence of elder abuse in Australia, but international studies suggest that one in 10 older people experience some form of abuse. The incidence may be higher amongst people from culturally diverse and Aboriginal backgrounds. We need a better understanding of the extent and impact.
It is pleasing to see all Australian governments working Advocacy Strategy with a strong focus on preventing and combating elder abuse.
Through our advocacy we aim to raise awareness of elder abuse, provide alternatives for reporting, ensure all staff are trained to identify and respond, support carers to re-