News & Events

Elder abuse reforms closer

June 21, 2017

elder abuse image

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) is bringing change. Not only are OCAV residents increasingly aware of the issue and their rights; the community is responding with a push for reforms and tighter laws to safeguard elderly Australians.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) launched its Report, Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131), on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Report includes 43 recommendations for law reform to safeguard older people from abuse and support their choices and wishes.

The ALRC received 450 submissions, including one from OCAV. Some of OCAV’s key recommendations were picked up by the Commission, including a call for the creation of national guidelines for lawyers specialising in wills and estates. The guidelines would help lawyers identify when elderly clients are being pressured by their family, friends, or carers to bequeath their money and assets.

Residents and staff at Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility celebrated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day but also used the event to discuss elder abuse and assure residents that any complaints or concerns will be taken seriously.

Mandy Williamson, Lifestyle Coordinator and Diversional Therapist at Liscombe House, said Liscombe House residents are increasingly aware of the issues around elder abuse.

“One of the main things we want residents to understand is that we are their advocates and if anything is worrying them we will take the necessary steps,” Mandy said.

The ALRC’s recommendations shine a spotlight on aged care services in a bid to safeguard older people from abuse and support their choices and wishes through:

  • improved responses to elder abuse in residential aged care;
  • enhanced employment screening of care workers;
  • greater scrutiny regarding the use of restrictive practices in aged care;
  • building trust and confidence in enduring documents as important advanced planning tools;
  • protecting older people when ‘assets for care’ arrangements go wrong;
  • banks and financial institutions protecting vulnerable customers from abuse;
  • better succession planning across the self-managed superannuation sector;

adult safeguarding regimes protecting and supporting at-risk adults.

Dr Julie Mackenzie, Senior Legal Officer at the ALRC said: “We’ve recommended that there be screening of a person’s suitability to work in aged care based on relevant criminal history, but also incidents, relevant incidents, from our new serious incident response scheme. So capturing relevant non-criminal information so we won’t end up in a situation which we sometimes heard about over the course of the inquiry where a person who perhaps has exhibited some inappropriate behaviour in one aged care facility moves on to another before anything formal can occur in relation to that person.”

Mandy said that while Liscombe House residents have made no reports of elder abuse, training was a priority. All staff are required to do training sessions every year. External educators are also brought in to ensure staff understand the various forms elder abuse can take and how to these various forms of abuse.

“You have to nurture a culture of care where the residents know that they will be heard if they report an abuse. They have to know that their wellbeing is our priority,” she said.

OCAV’s CEO, Phillip Wohlers, said the organisation supported the recommendations. He stressed the need for greater research into elder abuse and backed the ALRC’s call for a national prevalence study.

“Once we have the hard data on how prevalent elder abuse is and the forms it is taking, we can better target funding to combat these problems,” Mr Wohlers said.

OCAV’s submission to the ALRC.

Keith White, who had heart surgery two years ago, reckons he’s better now than he has ever been. He puts his state of health and well-being down to the life he has found at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa.

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