Abuse of older people in the spotlight

ECLC Yarra Ranges co-ordinator Anita Koochew.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June draws much-needed attention to the abuse of older people around the world, including Australia.

This abuse is often by someone older people know and trust, and is usually a close family member.

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in six older people have experienced abuse.

Despite this alarming figure, the lack of awareness and ageist attitudes in our community remain a challenge and present significant barriers to preventing and intervening on this serious issue.

The most common forms of abuse to older people are psychological and financial.

Psychological abuse may include threats to withdraw access to grandchildren or to place the older person in aged care.

Financial abuse can range from misusing an older person’s bank account, to transferring property owned by the older person to another person without the older person’s consent, to creating huge debts in the name of the older person and causing them to become homeless.

The Federal Government’s National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians was announced on 19 March this year.

Under the plan, Eastern Health and Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) will implement a Health Justice Partnership, which involves intervening early and skilled lawyers and financial counsellors working alongside healthcare teams to provide a complete and quick response to older people suffering abuse.

ECLC will also work with Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association and other agencies and stakeholders to deliver integrated legal and health services to older people in this community.

ECLC will continue work on preventing the abuse of older people with the support of the Victorian State Government.

This work aims to address the underlying causes of elder abuse, such as age discrimination and negative attitudes and beliefs about older people.

The Eastern Elder Abuse Network Recommends older people maintain connections with trusted family, friends and neighbours, and in their local community; consider their future needs and plan for transitions associated with ageing through Powers of Attorney, living arrangements, advance care planning and wills; make informed decisions before making changes to their finances or living arrangements through independent advice; establish a group of trusted people and professionals who they can turn to for support; and ask for help as soon as possible if abuse is taking place.

Eastern Community Legal Centre offers free legal assistance relating to the abuse of older people from its office in Healesville and at multiple locations including Ringwood Magistrates’ Court (Intervention Order Service) and outreach services to Yarra Junction, Monbulk and Lilydale.

Call 9762 6235 to find out how we can assist.