Elder abuse unspoken

Experts are saying that more needs to be done to combat the rising prevalence of elder violence, writes Mia Burgess.

Australians are neglecting and abusing their ageing parents and older relatives, a new report finds.

The Ageing is Everyone’s Business report, presented to State Parliament recently, found one in 10 seniors is experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour, who presented the report, says chronic loneliness can affect anybody at any time.

The report shines a light on the serious issues facing the elderly population.

Jenny Blakey, a spokesperson for Seniors Rights Victoria, is aware of the problem. “Too many elderly Australians are victims of physical, emotional or financial abuse by family members.”

Johnathan Kirby of My Aged Care says many elderly people lack support. “We often find clients who we help find aged care services by themselves are victim to isolation from their families.

“The transition into aged care facilities or home care is a big one, and usually family is involved in the process. However it is concerning how many families neglect their ageing relatives.”

Kate Page, clinical care coordinator from Mercy Place Aged Care Montrose, says many residents do not receive visitors. “We have lots of families that don’t come and visit our residents.

“Our staff’s attitude is that we are their family now. We so are lucky that we have staff who have worked here for up to 15 years, they become very protective.”

Blakey says many cases go unreported as victims are reluctant to make a complaint against a family member or close friend.

Page says she has seen many victims of elder abuse, but will always remember one respite resident who was a victim of neglect and abuse by his son.

“His son would not shower him, and when he was admitted we would find bruises all over him. We couldn’t prove anything at the time, but we knew something was going on.”

Ms. Blakey says aged care, legal and health professionals need to be given specialised training to recognise the signs of elder abuse.

“So that home and community workers, people from hospitals, lawyers, financial people who might be concerned are equipped if they think that something is going awry.”

Tanya Hales, who works for a financial planner, has seen some poor behavior. “We often deal with situations where we suspect that an adult child is not acting with the best intentions for their elderly parents.

“They sometimes make suggestions to their parents which will result in their own financial gain. This puts financial planners in a difficult situation when trying to look after their client’s best interests.”

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, released earlier this year, recommended that the Victorian and Federal Governments work together to ensure that all aged care workers, including aged care assessment services, undertake training in identifying and responding to abuse against seniors, including neglect and isolation.

Page says: “There’s rules and regulations for our staff so that if we suspect abuse we have to report it in 48 hours.

“I am surprised that this is not already compulsory for all aged care workers.”

Research recently commissioned by State Trustees revealed that more than 50 per cent of Victorians were unable to identify key aspects of their grandparents’ lives.

State Trustees’ chief executive Craig Dent said on his website that there appeared to be a lack of engagement with the elderly by loved ones and family, which could be contributing to the high levels of loneliness and older Australians’ vulnerability to abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or suffering with mental health issues contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or through www.lifeline.org.au

Similarly if you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, and/or domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT or visit www.1800respect.org.au for information and support.