Elder abuse is likely to increase as Australia’s population rises, the Australian Medical Association said as it released a new position statement on older people.
The AMA Federal Council’s Position Statement on Health and Care of Older Australians 2018 also covers health, consent, palliative care, dementia and research.
The statement says elder abuse includes physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, material or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment and may be intentional or unintentional.
“It violates basic legal and human rights. Older people should be able to live with dignity and security and be free from abuse,” the statement says.
Elder abuse identified by one in four doctors
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said a 2017 AMA survey found more than one in four doctors working in residential care had identified issues with elder abuse.
“While many reported that it was rare, or a long time ago, there were reports of financial abuse through family members, and neglect due to a lack of appropriately trained staff because of limited resources.
“As Australia’s population ages, and without resourcing for enough appropriately-trained staff, and education for carers and health workers to identify and prevent elder abuse, neglect and abuse of older people – whether accidental or intentional – is likely to increase.”
Dr Bartone said he was looking forward to seeing the draft results of a national study on the prevalence of elder abuse in Australia which are set to be released by the Council of Attorneys-General later this year.
The release of the statement came as video footage emerged in the media showing an elderly resident being punched and dragged across a bed by a care worker in a Bupa aged care facility in the Sydney suburb of Seaforth.
Bupa said it took the safety and wellbeing of its residents seriously was shocked and saddened by what had occurred.
ACSA shocked by video showing abuse
Aged and Community Services Australia said it was shocked and dismayed by the footage.
CEO Pat Sparrow restated ACSA’s commitment to stamping out elder abuse and said the industry had zero tolerance for it.
“Elder Abuse is a scourge on our society that has devastating consequences for older people. It can come in many forms – physical, financial, psychological, and others – and we continue to work with government and others on strategies to combat it once-and-for-all.
“Abuse such as we have seen alleged in reports are completely intolerable and those perpetuating any acts of abuse from within aged care services will be appropriately dealt with by the law.”
She said ACSA continued to work with Elder Abuse Action Australia on the development of a National Plan to combat elder abuse as a key recommendation of the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission Report
AMA wants more training
Speaking to journalists on Thursday Dr Bartone said unfortunately the Bupa example wasn’t an infrequent one.
“It’s an example of where training and preparation by the facility in terms of the staff they employ has probably been less than satisfactory,” he said.
“And it’s important to understand that we really do need to look at the whole envelope everything from the pre-aged care facilities – so, most people want to stay at home but the aged care packages aren’t there to allow them to stay at home.”
The Position Statement calls for information, training, and support for carers at the time the person is registered for care, to reduce the risk of elder abuse, and for education and training programs on how to recognise, intervene, and manage elder abuse for all health professionals involved in the care of older people.
It also calls for health promotion programs to ward off preventable conditions earlier in life, and for age-friendly environments within society that support healthy ageing.