By Maria Berry

Our family was privileged to attend the premiere launch of ‘The Target’, a movie by Giovanna Mercuri about bullying. The movie is based on true stories of bullying and the serious long term impacts on those who are victims.

This movie made me reflect on bullying within the aged care sector. As someone who has worked for 30 years with older people both professionally and in community roles, I can confirm that bullying is rife within the aged care industry.

I have experienced bullying among staff in some aged care organisations. This type of bullying has such a negative impact on staff morale. I have also witnessed older people being disrespected, not valued and bullied into decisions and choices that are not necessarily their own.

A more recent form of bullying has occurred by those who have given themselves the title ‘aged care advocates’. These people advocate against elder abuse while they abuse staff, aged care providers and other advocates, including myself. When I was hurting and traumatised, these people attacked me.

My advice to anyone who becomes a victim of this group’s bullying on social media is ‘ignore, delete and block’. If you read comments that are disrespectful, aggressive and nasty, remove yourself immediately. Don’t get caught up in this negativity.

Rather than focus on those who cause mayhem on social media, I propose we focus on so many examples of good work and kindness happening with aged care advocacy work.

At last years 5th National Elder Abuse Conference, I made a pledge during my plenary talk about my “lived experience of elder abuse”. I pledged to let go of the pain, frustration and anger from hurt and to commit to bringing about change. My aim is to ensure grassroots consumer voices are heard at the highest level. I work with others who are trying to achieve positive changes in aged care.

  • Dr Catherine Barrett at Celebrate Ageing launched Embolden in 2018, Australia’s first National festival to challenge ageism, bring respect to older people, celebrate ageing and build age friendly communities. Catherine was a Human Rights Medal Finalist.
  • Lauren Todorovic consistently puts the older person first, whilst working in co-design with operators to deliver the best innovation the sector has to offer.
  • Professor Catherine Crock is the founder of Gathering of Kindness, a movement to bring kindness back into healthcare and stop bullying. We need this movement to flow to all aged care services within our communities, including local councils.
  • Amy Madison from string words ‘story telling’ from older people and staff within aged care services to educate all with value and respect for older people.
  • Dr Kathleen Brasher leader of the Age Friendly Communities Ovens and Murray Alliance Group. Kathleen is a member of the World Health Organisation working globally.
  • Dr Sarah Russell advocacy, support and research work has shown a genuine commitment to create positive change and help others.
  • Brett Partington award winner of the Australian Pride Medal and the founder of Dementia Down Under a support network for carers and people with dementia.
  • All the health Consumer Representatives who volunteer and work tirelessly across a whole range of areas including aged care.

There are so, so many more people working hard to ensure older people are treated with kindness and respect. Keep the front door open for the good work and the positive and respectful people. These are the change makers of the future.

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