Continued focus on elder abuse

On 15 June World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is an opportunity to stop and think about how we identify and respond to this global social issue and a violation of human rights, which has enormous impacts on the health, wellbeing and independence of older people.

It’s also an opportunity to understand more about the role we play in identifying and responding.

Here at Monash Health we are continuing our work, which recognises elder abuse as a form of family violence but also understands that that there are some unique features which require specialised responses.

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Elder abuse is often perpetrated by a family member or carer, when someone is at one of the most vulnerable times in their life. The abuse may be psychological, physical, social, financial or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect. It’s often complicated by emotional ties and caring arrangements and aside from the health impacts, can lead to isolation and despair.

Anywhere we treat patients, you may come across potential cases. The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates up to 14 per cent of older people in Australia are affected.

Respect Victoria is about to launch a campaign called Respect Older People: ‘Call It Out’, raising awareness of the early signs of elder abuse and providing advice on where to turn to for help, this campaign is the first step in prompting a long-term cultural shift in our approach to elder abuse.

Monash Health is one of five sites in Victoria, trialling an integrated model of care for responding to elder abuse.

This work is led by Glenda Bawden, Principal Strategic Advisor Family Violence, and Selina Nivelle, Monash Health’s Elder Abuse Liaison Officer.

We are working with partners – the Bouverie Centre, Better Place Australia and the Southern Metropolitan Primary Care Network – to explore approaches to prevention, education, response and referral and to ensure our patients have the best possible outcomes. We are active in the Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership Elder Abuse Prevention Network, so that we stay at the forefront and understand the latest in elder abuse prevention work.

The model means we are in a solid position to connect with range of services to meet people’s needs – financial or family counselling and mediation through a community service like Better Place Australia, or contacting legal services, family violence agencies or Victoria Police for advice and support. The ultimate aim is a more seamless approach to supporting older people in moments of great vulnerability and getting the most appropriate response.

If you have a case you are concerned about, don’t hesitate to contact the Elder Abuse Liaison Officer for advice and support on 0431 453 950. You can also reach Aged Care Assessment Services on 9265 7888.

Take this opportunity on 15 June – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – to visit the Elder abuse intranet page and familiarise yourself with the resources and details about how to get the right help for your patients.