Delegates from private, government, community, legal and banking sectors will soon come together for Rock the Boat, the 2019 National Elder Abuse Conference.
The humble Seniors Rights Victoria volunteer was one of a handful of guest speakers, the others including: Victorian Commissioner for Seniors and Ambassador for Elder Abuse Gerard Mansour; Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Director, Seniors Programs & Participation, Barbara Mountjouris; and Seniors Rights Manager, Jenny Blakey.
Seniors Rights Victoria was celebrating a milestone, a decade of frontline service delivery, which has resulted in:
- 22,063 calls to the Helpline
- 4,382 older people receiving personalised assistance through advice and casework
- 29,182 participants in community education sessions
- 12,247 participants in professional development sessions
- Production of nine different information sheets and the booklet, Care for Your Assets: Money, Ageing and Family.
Jennifer stood proudly, sharing her experiences of being a peer educator with Seniors Rights Victoria for more than seven years, a role she said received continual support and ongoing training.
A former social worker and trainer in family welfare and health, Jennifer was a recipient of a Council of the Ageing Senior Achiever Award in 2016 for her voluntary work with SRV, Court Network and local climate action group.
“As older people ourselves, who are conveying our strong passion for justice, it seems that we are accepted and believed more readily,” Jennifer said.
“By us naming what elder abuse is, reinforcing that older people have a right not to be abused or ripped off, and that it is okay to seek assistance, participants do listen. They appear to really appreciate the knowledge we bring and the information we share, and it is very gratifying to have others thank us for doing something that we really enjoy”.
Jennifer said when she first started the talks it was rare for people to have heard the words elder abuse and Seniors Rights Victoria, but that was no longer the case.
“Although there is still a long way to go before we have a world where older people do not experience elder abuse, recognition that help is available is growing in our audiences. Also growing is the number of people who indicate they have appointed powers of attorney for when they can no longer make decisions themselves. And this is a real change,” she said.
“I cannot remember any community group talk where I have not come away feeling I have done something worthwhile and meaningful. I am very grateful that I have been able to play a small part in the challenge we all face in ensuring that in future, all older people can live without fear.”
Seniors Rights Victoria has subsequently released an anniversary brochure celebrating its work from the past 10 years and its future aspirations which it is distributing to all Victorian politicians in the new Parliament. To view the digital version of brochure go to Our Work Makes An Impact.
Cobar Community Health – a member of the Macedon Ranges Elder Rights Network (one of the elder abuse prevention networks) organised a Know Your Rights Forum in Woodend in November. About 50 people attended and heard from a panel of speakers which included Gerard Mansour, Commissioner for Older Victorians/Ambassador for Elder Abuse Prevention, Seniors Rights Victoria, Elder Rights Advocacy and Victoria Police. Gerard talked about the phases of ageing from retirement through starting to live with more complex issues and the importance of not becoming isolated from broader social support networks.
Another of the networks, South West Carer & Respite Services Network, is holding a Knitting Ninja’s Morning Tea this month.
The event, to be hosted by the Warrnambool Mayor Tony Herbert, will highlight the need for all in the community to challenge ageism and say NO to elder abuse. The celebration is the culmination of a yarn bombing project. It represents a true community level approach with participating groups including: Warrnambool Primary School; South West TAFE students; residents of Ingenia Gardens, Lyndoch Living and Heatherlie; and members of Warrnambool Bowls and Lawn Tennis Bowls Clubs, Rotary, Salvation Army and Mpower Warrnambool Carer Support Group. To view a video of the project go to Yarn Bombing.
The Think Impact action research being conducted as part of the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks and funded by the State Trustees Foundation Australia is almost complete. The research provides insights from more than 70 interviews conducted with community members and professionals about their perceptions of the drivers of elder abuse, activities of the current networks and possible directions for future research. Some of the key societal causes of elder abuse that were cited include: age discrimination, perceived or real diminished capacity of older people, and isolation/lack of connection. The report and a practice guide on primary prevention of elder abuse will be launched by Seniors Rights Victoria in February 2019.
The advocates working at Seniors Rights Victoria offer information and assistance to these callers, who can often be distressed. Seniors Rights Victoria currently has a Help Sheet which contains suggestions about what to do in these situations. This includes tips for the concerned family member or friend on listening to the older person with an open mind, letting them know help is available and encouraging and supporting the older person to contact Seniors Rights Victoria.
Seniors Rights Victoria frequently works with the older person and a supportive family member together to tackle their problems. From this work with concerned family and friends, Seniors Rights Victoria is aware that more support is needed.
To meet this need, Seniors Rights Victoria will next year extend their assistance for concerned family members and friends of older people experiencing abuse through a project that will produce a more comprehensive booklet. This booklet will be developed in consultation with people who can provide input into the topics and content. It will contain information on supporting the older person being abused and referral to appropriate services. The booklet is another way of achieving the commitment of Seniors Rights Victoria preventing elder abuse in the community and supporting those being abused and mistreated.
The Yarra Ranges Council project was released for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June. The video features poems written and spoken by the reference group members, about the isolation and negativity people feel while experiencing elder abuse.
Earlier this year, students read these poems and discussed the issue in a workshop, before drawing specific parts of the poems. These drawings were then animated by local animator, Al MacInnes.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Councillor Len Cox, said he hoped the video would help to raise awareness of abuse in the community.
“Elder abuse is a serious issue, and it comes in many forms, from physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual abuse, and it can include mistreatment and neglect,” Cr Cox said.
“This abuse is often carried out by people the victims know and trust, such as family members and friends, and victims rarely speak out.
“Abuse is never okay, and we cannot let this continue to happen to our vulnerable older adults in the community.
The sessions and clinics combined will enable people who have been recently diagnosed with dementia to plan ahead and to make informed choices about their future financial, health or care arrangements, as well as to put those choices into an appropriate legal format. The pilot project will run for a year.
Seniors Rights Victoria will support delivery of the session on Advanced Care Planning and Powers of Attorney (POAs) within the “Living with Dementia” program and as stand along one-off community education sessions. In addition, Seniors Rights Victoria will provide a number of legal clinics for people who have attended a session to provide one-on-one legal and advocacy consultations.
“This will ensure that legal education and advice is based on therapeutic principles and an empowerment approach for the older person, including the provision of support for non-legal issues facing the individual. It will also allow us to screen for elder abuse,” said Seniors Rights Victoria principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards.
“We’re really excited to be pioneering this approach in collaboration with Dementia Australia – the link between cognitive impairment and elder abuse is well established,” she said.
Ms Edwards said Australian research estimates that up to 10 per cent of older people experience some form of elder abuse and that the incidence is significantly under-reported (Kaspiew et al 2016). In addition, almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia (NATSEM 2016). For example, recent research has found elder abuse prevalence rates among guardianship clients of 13 per cent in 2013-14 and 21 per cent in 2016-17 (Bedson et al 2018).
The sessions will start in 2019.
Merri Health will expand their coverage to work in partnership with the Western Health Integrated Model of Care for responding to suspected elder abuse. Frankston Mornington Primary Care Partnership will be part of the Peninsula Integrated Model of Care and Barwon Community Legal Centre will be leading network activities in Geelong and surrounding areas.
Elder Abuse Prevention Network (EAPN) Project Officer Alexia Huxley said some of the networks have been operating for over nine months now.
“We met recently to discuss the findings of the accompanying action research. This was the second report back and looked at evidence being collected from consultation with community members – including older people – about the drivers of elder abuse and how to work effectively in the community to raise awareness and prevent elder abuse,” Ms Huxley said.
For example, Merri Health Elder Abuse Prevention network, which was only launched in June, is now working in conjunction with local councils, neighbourhood houses and other agencies to plan activities for Victorians against Violence (25 November-10 December) and capacity building for staff engaged with older people in the community so they are able to recognise and respond to elder abuse.
“The action research will be completed by Christmas and a framework to guide future work on primary prevention of elder abuse will be launched early in the New Year,” Ms Huxley.
Ms Edwards highlighted the story of elder abuse on the frontline, including the benefits of an integrated legal and advocacy social support model, as is used by Seniors Rights Victoria, to assist people experiencing elder abuse.
Other panellists included:
The free session will be held at the Sunbury Senior Citizens Club. It will focus on elder abuse and be presented by Gary Ferguson from Seniors Rights Victoria.
Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as family or friends.
This event has been organised by the valuable community partnership between: Sunbury Police Community Register, Sunbury U3A, HeartBeat Victoria Sunbury Branch, Sunbury Community Health, Merri Health and Seniors Rights Victoria.
A healthy afternoon tea provided. For more information please leave a phone message at Sunbury Police Community Register on 9744 8165, or to register your attendance go to Eventbrite.
For more information download the pdf Final Elder Abuse Flyer
Topics to be covered include: medical decision-making law and recent changes, retirement villages, aged care, wills and elder abuse.
Guest speakers are:
John Corcoran AM, Russell Kennedy Lawyers;
Gary Ferguson, Seniors Rights Victoria;
William Betts, Peninsula Community Legal Centre.
There will be a Q&A session, with morning tea to be provided. For more information and bookings phone 97833600 or book (no charge) via Eventbrite.
For more information download the pdf Legal Matters & Ageing Forum