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OCAV calls for elder abuse prevalence study

August 17, 2016

elder abuse image

OCAV has called for a national prevalence study into the extent of elder abuse and an examination of programs to combat elder abuse in Australia.

The recommendation is part of its submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into existing Commonwealth laws and frameworks that seek to safeguard and protect older persons from misuse or abuse by formal and informal carers and supporters.

Phillip Wohlers, OCAV’s CEO, said the inquiry was critical given the ageing population and the limited evidence available about the prevalence and incidence of elder abuse in Australia.

“As the Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse states, preventing elder abuse in an ageing world is everybody’s business,” said Mr Wohlers.

“Our mission is to provide affordable, safe and dignified homes for older Victorians, and to offer appropriate and practicable extended care when it is required. This also means making sure that vulnerable older Victorians are protected from abuse,” said Mr Wohlers.

Elder abuse is largely a gendered issue: 79% of OCAV’s residents are elderly women who are vulnerable, particularly financially, and thus the potential for elder abuse is ever present.

OCAV’s submission highlights the need for further research about possible conflict arising within intergenerational family homes, including older parents moving in with adult children. Increased public awareness and understanding of the possible conflict in these circumstances may help families and older people make better plans for their future.

The submission also highlights the need for all health professionals to receive education about how to identify the signs of elder abuse and to be trained in the reporting process.

“We acknowledge that there can be a lack of awareness amongst the staff of both family violence services, and of community and aged care services specifically for older people, of the existence of elder abuse,” said Mr Wohlers.

OCAV remedies this by regularly presenting lectures and professional development workshops on elder abuse and other issues that may affect residents.

OCAV’s submission also recommended that care assessment processes should include a series of questions directed at determining whether an older person is suffering, or at risk of suffering, elder abuse.

“There are a number of indicators of elder abuse and questions can be framed around these.  If the assessor has any concerns as a result of the assessment process they could be referred to the person’s doctor in the first instance,” said Mr Wohlers.

A further recommendation from OCAV to the inquiry was to ensure that older people had both an enduring and medical power of attorney and that their cognitive ability (brain health) was assessed each year by a GP.

 

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