Elder abuse - be aware

By Chief Advocate Ian Henschke

This Saturday, 15 June, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Only last month the former manager of the Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee was charged with elder abuse. It was a stark and sad reminder of this growing scourge.

Elder abuse is any act that causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust, such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect. The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates up to 14 per cent of older people in Australia are affected.

Fighting elder abuse

National Seniors is dedicated to fighting elder abuse and to contributing to raising awareness about it. Next Monday I will be Master of Ceremonies at a special World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference in Adelaide. Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, will be the keynote speaker. 

Next month the 6th National Elder Abuse Conference will be held in Brisbane (22-23 July), and I will be chairing a session at that conference on aged care. On the panel will be the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson.

National Seniors will have a stand in the foyer and Board Director, Darryl Wilson, will be a volunteer supporting our team. Tickets are available, and it looks like being especially useful to those who work in the area of aged care, health and law with older Australians.

Action needed now

The four-year national plan to respond to the abuse of older Australians released in March by the federal government placed too much emphasis on further research and too little on addressing what is a shameful community issue.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has already documented large numbers of incidents of abuse in home and residential care and it is well known that vulnerable people experiencing abuse are often hesitant to report it.

The government’s introduction of a free national helpline to report elder abuse is a positive step: 1800 353 374, Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm, except public holidays.

If you are not happy with government-funded aged care or want to know more about your rights you can call OPAN (Older Persons Advocacy Network). It also has a range of free advocacy information and education services. OPAN Fee Call: 1800 700 600, 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday.

Financial abuse

This type of abuse is sometimes called ‘inheritance impatience’ because it often involves sons and daughters. National Seniors Australia last year joined forces with the Australian Banking Association, the Council on the Ageing and Legal Aid to tackle financial elder abuse.

The group has called for an online register of power of attorney orders and a dedicated body to crack down on financial abuse of the elderly. It also wants standardised power-of-attorney laws across Australia.

As a society, we can and need to do more to support older people who are being exploited. The government made a budgetary commitment to standardise power of attorney orders and this needs to be addressed as a priority.

At National Seniors, we're passionate about tackling elder abuse.

I was recently interviewed about the topic on ABC Radio.

Listen here

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