Elder abuse: an evidence-based approach

Lifeline study seeks to shed light on elder abuse to implement adequate support services.

By Kate Horowitz

Lifeline’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (EAPU) estimates around 30,000 Queenslanders aged over 65 will be abused* in 2011. But to get clear evidence, it is working with research partners to conduct the first Australian prevalence study.

The study is a pilot project, which aims to clarify the nature and prevalence of elder abuse in Queensland as a first step toward a larger, more nationally focused prevalence study in the future.

In 2009/10 Lifeline’s Elder Abuse Helpline recorded 829 abusers in Queensland, 63 per cent of which were related to the older person. Cases commonly took the form of psychological abuse (43 per cent of reported cases), followed closely by financial abuse.

EAPU’s state manager of research analysis innovation and development, Dr Sharon Atkin, hopes that the study will raise awareness of the growing issue.

“We are an ageing population, so the issue is not going to get smaller,” Dr Atkin said. “We want there to be a greater awareness of [elder abuse] so that we can set up resources to help aged Australians over the next 10 or 20 years, such as counseling services.

“Because of the [number of abuse-related] calls Lifeline receives, we believe there needs to be more services for elderly people, especially the ones that are more vulnerable. Last year EAPU ran an awareness campaign and calls regarding elder abuse increased significantly.”

The EAPU helpline provides support, information and referrals to people experiencing or witnessing elder abuse, whether it be psychological, physical, sexual, financial, social abuse or neglect

Coordinator of the EAPU, Les Jackson, said it was shocking that no research had been conducted to-date, considering the prevalence of elder abuse reported to the helpline.

“International studies are helpful but local action needs to be taken so that future responses to elder abuse are based on knowledge derived from an Australian context,” Mr Jackson said.

“The prevalence study will help to enhance the services that are currently provided and will identify areas of need and gaps in services that are not being addressed.”

Until the study is complete and resulting issues addressed, Lifeline’s EAPU has developed a Guide for Developing Elder Abuse Protocols for use by community organisations. The guide encourages relevant agencies to develop elder abuse protocols with a ‘ground up’ approach to policy development.

The Guide for Developing Elder Abuse Protocols document aims to provide agencies with a sound and holistic policy on elder abuse. It will be available on the EAPU website later in the month.

“Protocol documents provide guidelines for staff in the performance of their duties. They assist management to be aware of some of the hurdles faced by staff in their daily routines and, most importantly, they provide a baseline of acceptable behaviour that endeavors to meet the needs of everyone: clients, staff and management.”

Lifeline operates four state-wide programs for older persons – Senior’s Enquiry Line, EAPU, Safe and Confident Living and the Time for Grandparents Program.

To contact the EAPU helpline, call 1300 651 192.

For more information about the EAPU, click here.

For crisis support; suicide prevention or mental health support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.   

* definition of elder abuse includes physical, verbal, psychological, financial and sexual abuse as well as neglect .




Tags: abuse, aged, ageing, elder-abuse-helpline, lifeline, lifelines-elder-abuse-prevention-unit-eapu,

3 thoughts on “Elder abuse: an evidence-based approach

  1. It is not suprising that elder abuse is as high as the recorded data indicates.
    The clear fact here is how little we value our elderly. You only have to look at the value we place on the people who care for them. Poor pay , poor working conditions, poor support, poor funding, poor outcomes.

    Time to get it right

  2. i disagree with this i work in aged care home we have great working conditions lots of funding, but where i worked im a whistleblower the staff are lazy, the managers dont care the residents sit in urine all day, the assessors said they were fine, the investigations people said i was right yet these managers and staff are still there, there are some good staff , i cant go back to work ever, made 50 complaints no 1 listens to me

  3. Oh please how many more reports about elder abuse or should we say crimes being committed against our senior citizens. The last 14 years there have been numerous reports and submissions made to the State and Federal Govts and they DO NOTHING! Now it’s a new “industry”, like the “aboriginal industry”, jobs for mates to go around telling people what they are “gunna do”.In actual fact the State and Federal Govts have done nothing except put up useless posters that do not stop this crime.When seniors are defrauded out of their homes(with the help of a willing lawyer)what is the response of the Qld Govt, lets do a report!Google Elder Abuse Qld and have a look for yourselves. No help to stop this crime, they are ignored and denied access to justice,this is the ongoing abuse inflicted on these very vunerable people by this Qld Govt.SHAME SHAME SHAME!

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