It’s time to face our demons

Thursday, 28th December, 2017

THE World Health Organisation estimates one in six older people have experienced abuse in the past year. In Australia, it is estimated to affect at least one in 20 people.

STRONGER laws and increased funding to protect vulnerable elderly people from abuse are some of the recommendations of a South Australian parliamentary committee.

The final report of the Joint Committee on Matters Relating to Elder Abuse said the committee acknowledged “the pain, confusion, humiliation and despair, voiced or unvoiced, of all victims of any type of elder abuse. Also the suffering of families and friends who have suspected or discovered abuse of a vulnerable person dear to them”.

Presiding member Nat Cook said every case of elder abuse was one too many.

“Every individual case is a violation of basic human human rights and a betrayal of trust,” Ms Cook said.

“There are no excuses. No level of disability, nor any language barrier, is acceptable as an excuse for elder abuse.”

Ms Cook said elder abuse was the last form of family violence to come to public attention and the past 18 months had been a critical time for awareness in SA.

“There is a time when society is called up to face its demons; when things long hidden or not sufficiently publicly acknowledged, must be brought out into the open and addressed,” she said.

It has been estimated that elder abuse will cost the Australian health system $350 million by 2025, not including costs in other areas such as the legal system.

Last year SA was rocked by revelations of criminal-level elder abuse, including that of frail, dementia patients at the Oakden campus of the Older Person’s Mental Health Service, and of an elderly man assaulted at the Mitcham Residential Care Facility, which led to the conviction of a care worker for aggravated assault.

While welcoming the proposal of a co-ordinating agency with powers to investigate, Council on the Ageing SA chief executive Jane Mussared said the greatest emphasis should be on finding real, acceptable solutions for those caught up in abuse situations. “We want to see the right support in place,” she said.

  • If you, or someone you know, may be a victim of elder abuse, contact the SA Elder Abuse Prevention Line, 1800-372-310 (Monday-Friday).

If the matter involves physical or sexual abuse, contact police. If there is an immediate threat to the safety of an older person call 000.

Recommendations include:

  • Creating an elder abuse unit and a bill to develop a South Australian Adult Protection Act.
  • Lobbying the federal government to develop a comprehensive approach to elder abuse and a national elder abuse strategy.

Unregistered aged care workers be subject to the national Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers.

  • The state government provide sufficient funding and resources to enable active participation in the Knowledge Hub to be hosted by Elder Abuse Action Australia.

Conference for change

AN IMPRESSIVE line-up of Australian and international speakers will gather in Sydney in February for the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference.

Titled Together making change, the conference is hosted by the Seniors Rights Service.

Speakers will include Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson, International Federation on Ageing secretary- general Dr Jane Barratt, social commentator, writer and lecturer Jane Caro, retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, and International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse secretary general Susan Somers.

Discussion groups will look at human rights and elder rights – what they are and the relationship between the two; elder abuse and policing; and why local responses are important to international processes.

Other sessions will look at preventing sexual abuse of older women; preventing abuse in aged care and in Indigenous communities; elder abuse and understaffing in residential aged care settings; identifying abuse in failed family accommodation arrangements; and older LGBTI people’s experiences of abuse and their prevention strategies.

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