National Plan to Address Elder Abuse

Following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission Report on Elder Abuse handed down in June 2017 a national plan to offset elder abuse is currently being developed by federal and state governments.  Nationally consistent laws to respond to elder abuse are among the key goals that also include:

  • promoting the autonomy and agency of older people;
  • addressing ageism and promoting community understanding of elder abuse;
  • safeguarding at-risk older people and improving responses;
  • building the evidence basis.

I have spoken about elder abuse in past blogs.  Due to my role as an Aged Care Placement Consultant I work closely with elderly people and their families and have, at times, been aware of this taking place. so I was pleased to see the ALRC report and recommendations delivered last year.  The development of a national plan from these recommendations, that is expected in draft version by the end of this year, will be very welcome.

Attorney-General Christian Porter stated at the recent National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney that the national plan would bring government, business and community stakeholders together to properly address this critical issue. He told the audience that addressing elder abuse was not just a legal issue so attorneys-general would work together with ministers from health, community services and other portfolios to develop the plan; in consultation with the community sector, seniors, business and financial sectors.

Meanwhile Victoria is the first state to develop its own action plan, launched this February. The Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria was developed by the National Ageing Research Institute, supported by Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of Public Advocate and community service providers. It sets out 10 priorities to address elder abuse:

  • Clarify the relationship between family violence and elder abuse.
  • Raise community awareness of elder abuse and promote a positive image of older people to reduce ageism.
  • Increase availability of “older person centred” alternatives to disclosing elder abuse.
  • Standardise tools for recognising abuse and develop and implement a common framework for responding to elder abuse.
  • Increase availability of family (elder) mediation services including for people living in rural areas and CALD communities.
  • Provide education and training on elder abuse for all health professionals in health and aged care services.
  • Improve data and increase evaluation.
  • Clarify whether carer stress is a risk factor for elder abuse.
  • Improve understanding and response to elder abuse in CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Improve housing options for both perpetrators and victims of elder abuse.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Aged Care Provision

Melbourne is a multi-cultural city with a growing ageing population. One of the problems emerging is that there are very few culturally specific aged care facilities for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  ethnic-grandmother

This lack of culturally appropriate care becomes even more dire when elderly people who have emigrated to Australia from a non-English speaking country get dementia and begin to lose the ability to speak English due to memory loss.

I have a client at the moment who is from Serbia, cannot speak English, has no relatives so has been appointed a guardian and has the State Trustees looking after his finances.  He suffers from mild dementia. His guardian has appointed me, as a Placement Consultant, to find an appropriate aged care facility for this gentleman. The guardian has requested a culturally specific aged care facility, which I have found are few and far between and are often mixed with other nationalities that have a history of unrest with Serbia.

The government has a national ageing and aged care strategy for people from CALD backgrounds, which was released in December 2012. Part of this strategy included identifying CALD regions and providing consultation (through a third party provider) and documents with information on how to identify specific needs of a CALD ageing population, forming partnerships with organisations to deliver on these needs and how to set up and apply to become an aged care provider.

In my searches as a Placement Specialist, I find that, despite these efforts, there are still not many culturally specific aged care providers for most of the culturally diverse elderly Australians. Italians have the most options in Melbourne, with very few options for other ethnic backgrounds, including aboriginal.  If an aged person speaks another language it seems that those seeking appropriate aged care for them have to enquire at each facility if they have staff that speak the particular language. A time consuming, needle in a haystack process, and if that staff member leaves the facility, what then?  At a minimum there should be a government national database of CALD appropriate facilities that can be searched by nationality and Aged Care Facilities should have a stated policy of which ethnic backgrounds they cater to, which is visibly included in their promotions and to which they adhere long term.