June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. And this year, a new Australian report was released on this very subject.  

After a 15 month investigation by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), the Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response was presented.

In it was 43 different recommendations of law reform to help protect older people from abuse and protect their autonomy.

Elder abuse can come in many forms, whether it be physical, emotional, it can even be financial abuse where people take advantage of an elderly person’s finances.

ALRC’s recommendations cover abuse experienced at home, in residential care as well as barriers to financial elder abuse through banking, superannuation and wills and estates.

The report, with detailed strategies and priorities for action, is targeted at federal and state governments, requesting that they develop a new national plan to stop elder abuse.  

Approximately one third of the commission’s recommendations revolved around new reforms for residential and community aged care.

One of the recommendations proposed a new benchmark for adequate staffing levels in aged care and that there be a more extensive process in place for screening staff. Something that many advocacy groups and aged care workers have been suggesting for a long time now.  

Another recommendation that was made was to develop a new “serious incident response scheme, which would require approved providers to notify an independent oversight body of any allegations or suspicions of serious incidents and for an investigation to take place.

The ALRC have suggested that the independent oversight body should be the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

The definition of a “serious incident”, particularly in aged care against a resident is;

  • any sort of physical, sexual or financial abuse
  • inappropriate, improper, inhumane or cruel treatment
  • unexplained serious injury
  • neglect

And should it involve and incident between two aged care residents, it means;

  • sexual abuse
  • physical abuse causing serious injury
  • an incident that is part of a pattern of abuse

In home care, a serious incident would include physical, sexual or financial abuse committed by a staff member against the person receiving care.

Another recommendation proposes regulation around the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care facilities stating that they should be the least restrictive and used only as a last resort, after alternative strategies have been considered, to prevent serious physical harm.

It has also been suggested that there be a new independent “senior practitioner” for aged care to provide “expert leadership on and oversight of the use of restrictive practices”, and with that providers should be required to record and report their use of restraints.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher, who was the Commissioner-in-charge of the inquiry, emphasised the importance of developing recommendations for elder care in the new report, “we have worked to balance the autonomy of older people with providing appropriate protections, respecting the choices that older persons make, but also safeguarding them from abuse”.

 

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