Home' Community Care Review : CCR Jan-Feb 2015 Contents >
'borrowing' $200 until pay day and not paying it back could escalate
into him requesting money on a frequent basis and making threats
to intimidate his mother in to giving him the money when she shows
hesitation or reluctance. Marc might also try to socially isolate her
from other family, friends and service providers so that no one finds
out about the abuse, cancelling services and activities for her as she
"doesn't have the money."
It is vital that staff working with older people are aware of the
issue of elder abuse and know how to respond to it in order to
ensure the safety of their clients. The staff of organisations working
with older people are at the coalface; they are the ones most likely
to come across elder abuse through their contact with older people
in the community, and are uniquely placed to raise awareness of the
issue and tell older people who they can contact for assistance.
A hidden issue
In common with domestic
violence and child abuse, elder
abuse is often a hidden issue,
not recognised by the older
person or others around them,
and not reported or responded
to appropriately. There are many
reasons for under-reporting,
including a sense of shame
and/or fear of retaliation by
the family member. There may also be a fear of changes to living
arrangements -- if the abuser is a carer, taking action may mean
that the care is no longer given and the older person may have to
move into a residential care facility. Often the older person wants
the abuse to stop, but they do not want the police and courts to get
involved -- it is often a family member after all. The older person
might be very isolated and dependent and have no knowledge of
elder abuse and who to contact for help.
There are some federal compulsory reporting requirements
for physical and sexual abuse occurring in residential aged care
facilities, but responses to elder abuse in the community vary from
state to state and from metropolitan to rural and remote areas.
There is no systemic recording or reporting of concerns across the
sector. Small non-government organisations in some states are
funded to deal with elder abuse and they may collect data, but
all have different systems and there is no collation of data across
agencies and government organisations. Unfortunately there is no
consistency in responses across jurisdictions: no legislation, and no
mandatory standards or guidelines in relation to elder abuse within
the community care sector. It is a jigsaw puzzle of service responses
that may be hard for the average helping professional to navigate,
let alone a vulnerable older person.
Policies and protocols
Several jurisdictions have developed their own protocols and policy
guidelines to inform and assist service providers in developing
service responses to elder abuse, and elder abuse training is also
offered, but these are both
voluntary and not mandated.
It is also not known how many
community care organisations
have developed specific elder
abuse policies and procedures.
There is a more robust system
of protections in place for
people without decision-making
capacity under guardianship and
administration legislation in
various jurisdictions. There are fewer protections in place for older
people with capacity. Elder abuse hotlines have also been put into
place in a number of areas, but often they are only able to provide
information and referral. Some states have additional elder abuse
advocacy services, but no direct mandate to assist in a situation of
elder abuse without permission from the older person involved if
they have decision-making capacity.
The older person has the right to decide and direct the advocacy
effort, and for them it often comes down to a choice between
choosing a legal intervention and doing nothing.
In Mrs Tide's situation, she could probably either decide to press
charges against her son for the financial abuse and for making
Categories of elder abuse
FINANCIAL OR MATERIAL ABUSE: includes the illegal or
improper use of a person's finances or property.
EMOTIONAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE: inflicting mental
anguish through actions or words that cause fear of violence,
isolation or deprivation, and/or feelings of shame, indignity and
PHYSICAL ABUSE: inflicting physical pain or injury, or physical
SEXUAL ABUSE: incorporates a broad range of unwanted sexual
behaviour, including rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment and
sexual interference. Also includes practices such as inappropriate
administration of enemata or cleansing of the genital area.
SOCIAL ABUSE: the forced isolation of an older person -- limiting
or preventing access to grandchildren, other relatives, friends
and services, etc. Sometimes it may have the additional effect of
hiding abuse from outside scrutiny.
NEGLECT: the failure to provide the necessities of life to an older
person for whom one is responsible.
Staff are the most likely to come
across elder abuse through their
contact with older people in the
community, and are uniquely placed
to raise awareness of the issue.
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