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Study highlights need for aged care staff education on elder abuse


A lack of common understanding of elder abuse among residential aged care staff is hampering the implementation of effective interventions, according to Monash University research.

The review looked at 19 research studies undertaken between 2000 to 2017 to investigate how residential aged care staff conceptualised and identified elder abuse.

Lead author Dr Harriet Radermacher said staff understanding of elder abuse differed across the studies.

“There was not a lot of consistency with the studies on how people categorised abuse or thought about it or conceptualised it,” Dr Radermacher told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Dr Harriet Radermacher

“More education, training and continual professional development is needed in this area,” said Dr Radermacher, an adjunct lecturer at Monash University (in the department of general practice).

Dr Radermacher said some forms of abuse are well known but there is less awareness among others.

“Physical, sexual and medication abuse are quite well known. But when you’re talking about verbal abuse, psychological abuse and caregiving abuse, it is less clear in terms of understanding that it is a form of abuse and how to address it,” Dr Radermacher said.

Other types of elder abuse present in aged care include neglect, financial, such as control of assets and material, such as damaging a residents’ belongings.

In addition to education, implementing cultural structures and change within the organisation could improve responses to elder abuse, Dr Radermacher said.

“People are in the industry for the right reasons. They want to support and care for residents but often they’re not equipped to do it,” she said.

“Cultural and structural processes in place at the facilities don’t allow abuse to be identified, understood and addressed,” she said.

Providing education to staff on “what abuse is, how to manage it and more importantly, how to prevent it,” will benefit staff and allow residents to feel more respected, she said.

“It’s a highly stressful workplace, so any support in relation to this that would result to happier residents is beneficial to everyone in the long run,” Dr Radermacher said.

Cultural change is also needed at the societal level, she said.

“There’s almost an acceptance that it’s ok just to talk down to older people and speak to them like a child,” Dr Radermacher said.

Access the paper, Staff conceptualisations of elder abuse in residential aged care: A rapid review, here.

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One Response to Study highlights need for aged care staff education on elder abuse

  1. Tony Schumacher-Jones September 21, 2018 at 8:53 am #

    Two comments from the above. First,

    “People are in the industry for the right reasons. They want to support and care for residents but often they’re not equipped to do it.”

    Easy question: how do you know this? How do you know people are in the industry ‘for the right reasons’? Because they tell you so? Because they answered a questionnaire? But what are ‘the right reasons’ anyway? If I am in the industry to make money and pay my bills and I can’t get a job doing anything else – is that a ‘right reason’? (Well it is for me). If I can hardly speak English and am in Australia on a visa and have to work to satisfy the demands of my visa and can’t get a job that pays a decent wage and can just walk in off the street and work in aged care, is this okay? Plenty of people work in jobs they find boring and unappealing but still work in them just because they are the only jobs they can get. We don’t have to have people working in aged care for what we might think are ‘the right reasons’ – all we want is people to do their job properly, without bashing elderly residents. I don’t care why you are here. Just treat elderly people with compassion.

    Second point.

    “Providing education to staff on “what abuse is, how to manage it and more importantly, how to prevent it,” will benefit staff and allow residents to feel more respected.”
    Sorry, but this is nonsense. Are you really suggesting that a solution to bashing an elderly person is to have more education? You assault an elderly person in their home (which is what a residential aged care facility is) and you go to jail. Its time we held people accountable.

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