Wednesday, 15th June marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), officially recognised by the United Nations in 2011.
On this day individuals and organisations worldwide highlight the importance of the rights of older people, as prevention against the mistreatment and harm occurring in their communities.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge our staff for their great work and the care they provide every day for our residents. Their care and commitment is the greatest counter-measure to elder abuse in our community and across society. A zero tolerance approach and active reporting are how we safeguard the people we serve that are in our care.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect. Rates of elder abuse are under reported, but the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates up to 14 per cent of older people in Australia are affected.
The warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Unexplained changes to legal documents or finances are also of concern. Most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones and each person involved with the elderly to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.
We can help older people to reduce the risk of elder abuse by encouraging them to make sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are in order.
They must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to seek help.
For those without a ‘voice’ we must be their advocates.
In Mater Christi we have the Serious Incident Response Scheme providing direction on action for reporting on suspected Elder Abuse. Mercy and the education team provides a number of awareness and training modules on these issues staff are encourage to refresh these regularly.
Beyond this we can all be proactive by discouraging ageism and protecting the rights and dignity of all senior Australians.
Ending ageism is the key to tackling elder abuse. Ageism underpins many of our policy failures in addressing the rights and dignity of older Australians.
You are not alone. This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day we invited several people to write a short piece on the theme of Equality at Every Age. We hope you appreciate this thought provoking article by Australian journalist Philippa McDonald.