Preventing elder abuse in our communities

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Ballarat Aged Care’s Clinical Director, and industry leader in the understanding and prevention of elder abuse, Professor Joseph Ibrahim, encourages people to use the day to gain a better understanding of this serious issue. 

Imagine the devastation you would feel if you realised your own child, who you trusted as your financial power of attorney, had been neglecting to pay for your home care and was withholding large amounts of your money from you. You had no financial independence, no money to purchase items you need, and your quality of life was being impacted. 

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. Elder abuse effects one in 20 older Australians, from physical, psychological and sexual abuse, to financial abuse and neglect. While we know that older people are at greater risk of abuse and neglect than the general population, there is currently very little information about the overall number and severity of incidents in Australia.

In June 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission released its report into elder abuse, which included recommendations for a national reporting and monitoring system, as well as a national study to source vital information on the occurrence and severity of elder abuse in Australia.

Professor Ibrahim welcomed the report and stressed the importance of gaining a more in-depth insight into elder abuse on a local and national level. 

“Right now, we know so little when it comes to the extent of elder abuse taking place in our communities,” Prof. Ibrahim said.

“A national study and reporting system will greatly assist us in understanding this serious issue, and help the industry to put systems and processes in place to prevent the occurrence of elder abuse in the future. We also want to gain a better understanding of the impact of elder abuse on the health and wellbeing of older people, particularly as victims are more likely to die earlier.”

“Ballarat Aged Care takes a proactive approach to elder abuse, with all staff regularly trained in detecting potential cases of abuse and neglect. Formal reporting systems are in place to ensure all suspected cases are followed up accordingly and it is a permanent item on staff meeting agendas. ”

“We primarily see cases of financial abuse, and more so while older people are still living in their own homes. Older people are more vulnerable to financial abuse, and when it is taking place at home it can go unnoticed for extended periods of time.”

“Ballarat Aged Care’s Elder Abuse Response Protocol helps to ensure the protection, well-being and empowerment of older people who receive inpatient, outpatient or community based care, or who reside in Ballarat Aged Care’s residential facilities. We are committed to supporting the safety, security and dignity of all older people in our care and our community.”

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is shining a spotlight on this issue and bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. It will start conversations and help people to become more aware of what is happening around them. This all goes a long way to protecting those most vulnerable,” he said.

Professor Ibrahim is coordinating a day-long seminar into elder abuse for the aged care industry, being held on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The seminar will engage frontline staff in recognising and preventing elder abuse and present information about the challenges, ethical and forensic aspects. It will enhance the industry’s ability to develop innovative approaches to improving care for older people.

Ballarat Aged Care is part of Ballarat Health Services and has been providing professional, quality aged care services to the Ballarat and Grampians regions for over 150 years. It offers 10 aged care homes throughout the region that cater for residential aged care, dementia and cognitive impairment care, psychogeriatric care, respite, and in home care. For further information please visit www.ballaratagedcare.org.au