It’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day coming up on June 15, a day where communities around the world take a stand against the abuse experienced by older people.
Sadly, elder abuse, a form of family violence, is not uncommon. Whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual or even financial, elder abuse is characterised by a consistent pattern of behaviour and the use of control by a family member or caregiver. In many situations, close trusted family members are involved and therefore it can be a layered and complex situation to address.
One common situation is the exchange of assets for care. For example, adult children may convince their elderly parent to sell their home and hand over any profits to them in return for a granny flat. Unfortunately, the relationship starts to sour and the adult children tell their parent they can’t eat meals with them anymore, they are refused trips to medical appointments and don’t consent to having help in the home from community organisations. The older person suffers neglect or worse, can be left homeless.
This then involves using legal aid to build a case to recoup some of the money that was handed over. The legal system is not simple, even if you have a strong case. Also involving lawyers often means a severing of the family relationships, which many people do not want. Understandably people want to do everything they can to keep their family together.
Mandy Walmsley from Seniors Rights Victoria says, “before moving in with family members, it’s advisable to put in place a formal legal agreement covering off the practical side of things, who’s paying the bills, who is doing the childcare, housework responsibilities and what happens if the couple separates as well as documenting any money that has changed hands”.
“Use a legal service that’s independent from other family members to ensure your rights are being adequately represented.
“It’s also wise to check with Centrelink how moving in with family, can affect any payments you may be receiving”, she says.
If the family will allow services to come into the home, registering with My Aged Care (www.myagedcare.gov.au) to see what services you are entitled to is a good first step. Having services come into the home provides some monitoring, and having a Case Manager with a Home Care Package ensures there are people outside the family who can advocate for your wellbeing. It can also provide some much-needed support for the family if they are acting as a carer.
Gerard Mansour, Commissioner for Seniors Victoria says that when family is involved the older person usually wants two things, firstly they want the abuse to stop and secondly for the issue affecting the adult child to be addressed. This could be drugs, gambling, or any other issue, so that the family relationships can be stabilised.
Mr Mansour says “we are in the early stages of understanding what best practice looks like when it comes to family mediation, care pathways and counselling services”.
An agency, known as The Orange Door has opened and is an intake and assessment service for Family Violence. It’s a step towards developing an integrated model to support people in Family Violence situations.
The Government has stated it is committed to understanding the prevalence of elder abuse and the risk factors, so that we will have better information about the extent of the issue in Australia. There is also a new database coming out in July this year, known as the L17 Family Violence Portal that enables Victoria Police to share information with other agencies relating to family violence incidents they have been called out to. The portal has already been tested by Swinburne University in a pilot phase and found to reduce violent incidents by 10%.
Finally, the Royal Commission has given a voice to the experiences of older people, however ageism and the attitudes towards older people in society is still a barrier in the prevention of elder abuse and in supporting older people to live fulfilling lives.
Kingston Council is committed to raising awareness about elder abuse, advocating for equal rights and promoting respectful relationships. If you or someone you know are being impacted by elder abuse, please contact:
- your local Orange Door, visit www.orangedoor.vic.gov.au or if you are in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne call the Eastern Domestic Violence Outreach Service on 03 9259 4200 or visit www.edvos.org.au
- Seniors Rights Victoria can provide information about free services to help prevent elder abuse - 1300 368 821 or seniorsrights.org.au
- Safe steps can be contacted 24/7 on 1800 015 188, for women and children who are victims of family violence
- Mens referral service call 1300 766 491 for men using controlling behaviour or women seeking further information.
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is the national helpline that can be contacted 24/7 for confidential information about counselling and support services (www.1800respect.org.au).
If you are in immediate danger or want to report an incident, please call the Police on 000.
If you are a client of AccessCare with a Home Care Package, speak to your Aged Care Adviser for further guidance.