The forgotten problem of elder abuse
Child abuse is much on the minds of people these days, what with the inquest for the Kahui twins and the like.
But elder abuse seems to have faded from public consciousness for the time being. However, the existence of elder abuse appears to be alive and well.
I cite the example of an elderly man who was admitted to a rest home when he was not looking after himself or taking his medication. Subsequently, the ownership of the rest home has changed and the old man has been subjected to bullying by the new owner and is very unhappy.
His power of attorney is held by a sister who is dying of cancer.
Alternative accommodation was arranged for him by his family, but the owner of the rest home he currently lives in has ‘‘persuaded’’ him he cannot leave and will have to stay put for the rest of his life – never mind how unhappy the rest of his life may be.
Just what are the old man’s rights in this instance? Since he has been in care, his health has improved and he appears to be perfectly capable of making his own decisions, but he is frail enough to feel impotent in the face of the ‘‘persuasion’’ offered by the rest home owner.
I have heard of a similar instance of such ‘‘persuasion’’ in a rest home in another part of the country. I doubt these are isolated cases. It appears that once a person has been assessed as requiring rest home care, all decisions are taken out of his/her hands.
But this is quite contrary to the Code of Rights put out by the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Office, which states you should receive a service only when you have given your informed consent; you should be presumed competent to make choices and give consent unless there are reasonable grounds for a provider to conclude otherwise; and if you have diminished competence, you should be allowed to make choices and give consent to the level of your ability.
All this flies in the face of the above-mentioned rest home owner’s assertion that the old man in question may not leave her premises, even if other arrangements have been made for him.
Approaches have been made to the district health board, the case manager of the old man in question, the authorities who oversee rest home management – all to no avail. So where does one turn?
Then there is the ongoing situation where elderly people entitled to assistance with house chores and cares have their needs assessed by telephone, not by a physical visit from an assessor. How can this be satisfactory? There is nothing like seeing with your own eyes how people are coping.
Our speaker this month is lawyer Bill Bevan, well known for his involvement with the Porirua Community Law Centre. Do you have any legal questions – maybe to do with wills, power of attorney or similar?
Date: Tuesday, August 9. Time: 1.30pm. Venue: The Porirua Club, Lodge Pl, Porirua. Contact: Helen Griffith. Phone: 236 0112.