The conversations of life

Elder abuse not just an issue in aged care: new report


With World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this week, it’s timely to see that the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released its long-awaited report into elder abuse.

The result of a 15-month consultation with 117 stakeholders including aged care peak bodies and providers, the review makes a number of recommendations to the way elder abuse is addressed, including its reporting in aged care.

But the report also highlights how the majority of the abuse is in the community.

In 2015-16, there were 2,862 reportable assaults involving staff, family members and other residents – representing just 1.2% of people in residential aged care at the time.

While it would be ideal if we had no cases, it would seem that our aged care system is doing better than the wider community.

A 2016 report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimated that between two and 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse in any given year, with financial abuse accounting for up to 50 per cent of cases.

A raft of recommendations

Do we need more information about rates of abuse in aged care and the community? Yes. Can we do more to protect our elderly aged care residents? Yes.

The ALRC recommends setting up a serious incident response scheme, with alleged assaults in aged care to be reported to an independent oversight body in addition to the police and Department of Health which currently deal with assault allegations.

Providers would also be required to investigate any alleged incidents to address any issues.

Importantly, the report did acknowledge that many providers already have systems in place to respond to any incidents.

It’s a complex issue – but families should know that their loved ones are being watched over and that any reforms will only offer more protection for our frail and vulnerable residents.

Each state has its own helpline and resources for dealing with elder abuse. You can find more information here.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was June 15.

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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