A Melbourne health organisation has teamed up with a local community legal centre in a new partnership aimed at targeting elder abuse.
Eastern Health is trialing a service where healthcare and social workers are trained to identify older people who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing elder abuse and then refer them to Eastern Community Legal Centre for appropriate legal support services.
The initiative is being delivered with funding from the federal government’s national elder abuse plan.
Eastern Health Executive Director, Clinical Operations Shannon Wight said Eastern Health plays a crucial role as a potential point of contact with older people who are experiencing or at risk of abuse.
Ms Wight says the partnership will ensure that the health service builds on work that’s already being done at Eastern Health to better identify and respond to older people who are experience abuse.
It will also maintaining their right to making choices about how their safety is protected. “I look forward to seeing the benefits that it will deliver for our patients,” Ms Wight said.
ECLC Chief Executive Officer Michael Smith said ECLC has provided free legal advice and other resources for the past decade to help prevent elder abuse in the community.
“This funding will enable ECLC and Eastern Health to identify and respond to elder abuse as early as possible,” he said.
Eastern Health announced the partnership at an Elder Abuse Awareness Forum on June 11.
Speaking at an Eastern Elder Abuse Network event marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 12, Mr Smith stressed the importance of talking about both the social context and driving sets of behaviour behind elder abuse.
“Older people should not have to put interventions in place to protect themselves. We should be creating a society where older people are respected and valued, and abuse towards them isn’t tolerated at all,” Michael said.
ECLC has taken an active role in preventing elder abuse and is focussing on the prevention of ageism, discrimination, and the drivers of the abuse of older people though its OPERA (Older People: Equity, Respect, Ageing) project.
The project, involving community consultations with almost 300 people, aims to understand how ageism is expressed and experienced in the community and help equip the local health and community sector to respond to elder abuse.
“We really were looking at ageism and people’s experiences of ageism,” project co-ordinator Jill Exon told Community Care Review. “I think ageism is so accepted in our community that the term itself didn’t really resonate. But when we re-framed that and talked about equity and quality, people really had a lot to say.”
As part of the project researchers are currently developing a series of videos focused on primary prevention of elder abuse in partnership with Swinburne University.