Abuse of the el­derly must be stopped

The Advertiser - - OPINION - PETER SAN­DE­MAN

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-

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