An awareness campaign and helpline to combat elder abuse were launched in August last year. The project had more than $100,000 in state funding. While the project has proved effective, the statistics are still worrying.
The Tasmanian Minister for Human Services, Cassy O’Connor, has told a budget estimates hearing that 120 cases of elder abuse were reported on the abuse helpline between August 2012 and March 2013. Seventy per cent of the victims were women, over half the reported cases involved financial abuse and almost 70 per cent cited psychological or emotional abuse. Approximately 40 per cent of cases were in relation to a person over 80 years of age.
Elder abuse is defined by the World Health Organisation as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”.
To find out more visit the ABC News website.
Saturday15 June will be the seventh World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), initiated by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse Inc. (INPEA). INPEA was founded by Dr Elizabeth Podnieks in Massachusetts, USA, in 1997.
Most Australians would be unaware of any of this and many might even ask, ‘so what? What’s all this got to do with me or my family?’. After all, the contemporary calendar is crammed to overflowing with worthy organisations all pursuing their lofty agendas. Every day and every week of the year seems to be dedicated to a worthy cause.
Sadly, at the personal level, we’re all getting older and even if we’re currently in denial about the direct relevance of WEAAD, perhaps it becomes a great deal more relevant when we consider our own parents or elderly relatives and friends.
In my research for this blog, I recalled my own maternal aunt, my mum’s only sibling, who had always been very active and fiercely independent. She worked full-time in Macquarie Street, Sydney, in a demanding medical role until compulsory retirement. She subsequently sold her cherished little Fiat Bambina and her home unit and moved into the local church-owned retirement village in the leafy Eastern Suburbs. Over the ensuing years she remained active and independent with a wide circle of friends, regularly playing golf and bridge. As her health began to decline, some of her closest friends became increasingly concerned and contacted me, her ‘nearest’ relative, somewhat ironic since I was living in Melbourne. From this distance, I attempted, over many months, with increasing frustration, to have my aunt relocated within the same facility to assisted living. It was clear that her dementia was rapidly getting worse and she could no longer care for herself.
Unfortunately, the phone call to inform us that my aunt had passed away preceded the retirement village responding to my requests and her obvious needs.
As I read the sketchy statistics and ‘facts’ on what is known of elder abuse in Australia, my memories went back twenty years to my aunt’s depressing and totally avoidable last months. Even as a long term resident of a long established and highly reputable facility which claimed to provide all its residents with the very best of care, at a premium price, she still suffered.
What do you want for your elderly relatives and friends when they can no longer fend for themselves? And whose responsibility is it to tackle elder abuse?