Less than a year after its formation, a network set up to tackle elder abuse has had its Federal Government funding doubled.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) will receive a $2 million boost to support all older Australians to access their rights when they are threatened by third parties.
The outreach will be available to individuals in the community as well as in aged care.
The funding announcement follows a string of elder-abuse cases reported to a West Australian parliamentary inquiry earlier this year.
That probe heard stories about elderly people financially abused by their children and grandchildren, with the vast majority of cases involving women aged from 60 years on.
“Most of the perpetrators are daughters,” according to an ABC report. “Some of them are known as boomerang kids – adult children who return to live with their parents, often after a relationship breakdown, mental health problem or losing their job.”
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the extra funding would enable OPAN to advocate for protection for people experiencing elder abuse.
“New figures show that OPAN had a combined 1330 information contacts and cases of people at risk of or experiencing elder abuse in its first year of operation and conducted 242 sessions to educate older Australians and service providers on elder abuse protection,” Mr Wyatt said.
“Estimates of elder abuse range from 2 to 12 per cent. Whether concerns are raised by older individuals, family members, aged-care residents, staff, community visitors or government officials, they must be heard and they must be acted on.”
Peak body Council on the Ageing (COTA) welcomed the funding boost, saying “all older Australians should be afforded the fundamental human right to live free from violence, neglect and abuse”.
“Whether it manifests itself as financial abuse, emotional abuse or physical abuse, elder abuse is unacceptable and a sign of a much broader problem in our attitudes towards older Australians,” COTA chief executive Ian Yates said in a statement.
OPAN chief executive Lewis Kaplan said that “while most of OPAN’s services focus on the consumer, there will be a flow-on to the home-care sector where staff work closely with clients in their homes and often find themselves part of the conversation”, Australian Ageing Agenda reported.
“In the home-care space what we want to have happen is to help providers identify suspected elder abuse,” Mr Kaplan said.
“Sometimes an aged-care provider working in somebody’s home might just pick up some signs and symptoms and then, being able to talk to either the person themselves or their manager, say ‘I think there’s something not right going on here, what can we do about it?’.
“That’s not saying that home-care providers are responsible for resolving elder-abuse issues, but certainly they and GPs and other providers will be expected to play a role in helping to identify it.”
OPAN will use the funding for a number of key projects, including:
- developing national elder abuse advocacy response protocols
- creating a national decision-making system to support older people, especially those living with dementia
- implementing a national elder-abuse dataset
- mapping elder-abuse referral and support pathways in each state and territory
- researching special needs of rural and remote populations.
“It’s important that we shine a light on any physical, emotional or financial abuse of our elders,” Mr Wyatt said.
“I encourage everyone in need to take advantage of OPAN’s free service, which also includes individual information and advocacy support on all issues to do with aged care.
“Separately, the Council of Attorneys-General … has committed to develop a national plan to address elder-abuse issues, including a study to examine the prevalence of abuse across Australia.”
Senior Australians, their families or carers in need of advocacy should go to the OPAN website or call 1800 700 600.
Do you believe elder abuse is a growing concern? Do you know someone that you suspect has experienced elder abuse? Would you know where to direct them if that was the case