The use of restraint in aged care and the lack of regulation around it is among the issues the Australian Law Reform Commission is exploring in its elder abuse inquiry, an issues paper released today shows.
The commission said that concerns existed over the use of “restrictive practices in aged care” – which included physical, chemical and environmental restraint to control a resident’s behaviour – and over the processes for obtaining consent to their use when a person’s decision-making capacity was impaired.
“Such practices may be an interference with a person’s rights. They may also constitute abuse and, in some circumstances, a crime,” the issues paper said.
While there was a national framework for reducing and eliminating the use of restrictive practices in the disability service sector, the use of restrictive practices was not explicitly regulated in aged care, although guidance had been provided to support restraint-free environments in aged care, the commission noted.
The paper sought feedback on what ways the use of restrictive practices in aged care should be regulated to improve safeguards against elder abuse.
The commission’s inquiry into the laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse is focusing on a range of areas including financial institutions, superannuation, social security, criminal law, aged care and health.
It has been consulting around Australia but the issues paper, released today to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, is the first opportunity for broad public input.
The paper also sets out in detail the key issues the commission is examining, and calls for information from stakeholders, experts and the public. The commission also said it was keen to collect case studies from people who had experienced or witnessed elder abuse.
On aged care, the paper also asked what changes should be made to the mandatory reporting of alleged assaults in facilities, to the aged care complaints mechanism, the sanctions regime and to the role of aged care advocacy services and the community visitors scheme.
The effectiveness of mandatory reporting of assaults has been a longstanding debate within the sector, and the department has not undertaken a review of the policy since it was first introduced in 2007.
The paper also asked what evidence existed of elder abuse committed in aged care – across residential, home and flexible care settings – and what further role aged care assessment programs could play in identifying and responding to people at risk of abuse.
The inquiry is due to report in May 2017.
Related AAA coverage:
- Government heeds calls for federal inquiry into laws on elder abuse
- Legal inquiry welcome, but national elder abuse strategy needed: Commissioner
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