Law Council calls for more action on elder abuse

The Law Council of Australia has continued to call for measures that will better protect older Australians.

“Elder abuse is insidious and more prevalent than I think any of us would like to believe,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Tass Liveris said.

“Incidents of abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

“What makes it most devastating is that the perpetrator is often someone the older person trusts and relies on, such as a family member, friend or carer.

“We must stamp out elder abuse and protect vulnerable members of our community.”

The Law Council is calling for:
• Appropriate, sustained and increased funding for specialist legal assistance and aged care advocacy services, government agencies, and relevant State and Territory tribunals that work towards reducing elder abuse.
• Implementation of outstanding priorities identified in the Australian Law Reform Commission and Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) reports and the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Persons 2019-2023, including:
• developing a new Aged Care Act which is consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission report by 1 July 2023; and
• ensuring that those in residential aged care facilities have legal redress to protect them from abuse, whether perpetrated by care providers (including in the use of restrictive practices) or fellow residents.

At the end of last year, the Law Council of Australia welcomed the decision by Commonwealth, State and Territory Attorneys-General to prioritise enduring power of attorney (EPOA) law reform to reduce the risk of older Australians being subject to financial abuse and looks forward to this work coming to fruition.

EPOA arrangements are intended to ensure a person’s interests are protected when they lose capacity to make decisions for themselves. However, in the absence of adequate legal safeguards, financial elder abuse by appointed decision-makers may be facilitated by such arrangements.

Law Council of Australia, 15/06/2022, https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/media/media-releases/australia-must-address-elder-abuse

FIRST NATIONAL STUDY FINDS MORE ELDER ABUSE

In the year prior to the first national survey conducted into elder abuse, one in six older Australians reported they had experienced abuse most often committed by family members.

The National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (NEAPS) survey, carried out between February and May 2020, showed that the most common subtype was psychological abuse (12%), followed by neglect (3%), financial abuse (2%), physical abuse (2%) and sexual abuse (1%). Some of the 7,000 participants aged over 65 years reported several types of abuse occurring, usually psychological abuse and neglect.

Types of elder abuse

Nearly one in five elder abuse perpetrators are children (18%), or their partners or grandchildren and about one in 10 elder abuse perpetrators are intimate partners. Children (most often, sons) are most likely to perpetrate financial abuse as well as friends and service providers.

Children are also the largest group of perpetrators of psychological and physical abuse while friends, acquaintances and spouses were most likely to perpetrate sexual abuse.
Children and intimate partners are both significant perpetrator groups (24-25% for each) of neglect. Professional carers (14%) and service providers (13%) are bigger perpetrator groups for neglect than for other abuse subtypes.

Psychological abuse is not always recognized by either victims or perpetrators. It includes insulting, belittling or threatening behaviour towards a person. Family and friends are the best protection for a person experiencing abuse rather than the person who is unlikely to directly confront the perpetrator.

Factors that increase risk of abuse

While women were slightly more likely to be the subject of abuse than men, other factors increased the risk of experiencing abuse, namely, being poorer, being single, separated or divorced and living in rented housing or owning a house with a debt against it. Having poor physical or psychological health also increased the risk of experiencing abuse.

The study did not include people living in aged care or suffering cognitive decline which could increase the identified prevalence of elder abuse in the community.
The federal government has announced additional funding to build on the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older People. This announcement follows on from recommendations made by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to increase funding to home care packages and create new training places for aged care staff.

AIFS, National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, https://aifs.gov.au/publications/national-elder-abuse-prevalence-study

LEAN IN AND LISTEN!

Welcome to the Baby Boomers Guide to Life in the 21st Century!

Produced by Jeffrey Furolo and hosted by Lex Marinos and Patricia ‘Little Pattie’ Amphlett, the Baby Boomers Guide is a radio series that can be heard on community radio station, Radio Skid Row.

The team has completed two seasons of radio programs, and most recently, a 34 session season of topics aimed at listeners over 55 years. Topics covered include: Health Services & Ageing in Australia; Sexuality, Relationships & Ageing; and The Brain & Ageing.

Based on my legal experience, I chatted with Patricia in the Two Cents Worth segment on three important topics:

Wills and inheritances: https://babyboomersguide.com.au/episode/s2-e1-ageism-discrimination-stigma/
Divorce & separation in later life: https://babyboomersguide.com.au/episode/s2-e5-intergenerationality-ageing/
Powers of an attorney: https://babyboomersguide.com.au/episode/technology-ageing-in-australia/

The series began with an interview with Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner, the late Susan Ryan. Other notable speakers include former NSW Legislative Council MP Meredith Burgmann; and Deputy Commissioner of the ACCC, Delia Rickard.

Podcasts of the programs are available on the Baby Boomers Guide to the 21st Century website at https://babyboomersguide.com.au/episode/technology-ageing-in-australia/.

Season 2 is proudly supported by Older Women’s Network NSW and Ecstra Foundation.