Dementia Australia and Seniors Rights Victoria are partnering to support those who have been recently diagnosed with dementia, as well as their carers, to plan ahead and to make informed choices about their future financial, health and care arrangements.
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 following case study shows how we try to help people who are worried about an older person who they are close to.
Candice* called the Helpline regarding her mother, Betty, who is 85 years old and lives in her own home. Candice’s brother Bruce has been living with Betty on and off all his life. He has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Candice told the helpline advocate that Bruce is not paying his way and treats her mother poorly, but that Betty is too scared to do anything about it. Candice doesn’t think her mother will call Seniors Rights Victoria to discuss the situation.
The Helpline advocate listens to Candice’s concerns. The advocate explains Seniors Rights Victoria’s role and discusses strategies for Candice to encourage Betty to make contact through the Helpline.
“We also tell her to tell her mother that we are a free and confidential service and that we will not make her mother do anything she doesn’t want to do,” said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey.
If Betty is willing to participate in an advice call, one of SRV’s lawyers can provide her with legal advice about her legal options, and an Advocate will be able to talk to Betty about supports available to her – and even to Bruce, if he will accept them.
The Helpline Advocate will also talk directly to Candice about what some of those supports may be in case Betty doesn’t want to talk with one of Senior Rights Victoria’s lawyers or advocates.
A few weeks later Candice calls with Betty on the line and introduces her to the Advocate who explains SRV service. After some discussion and reassurance, Betty agrees to an appointment with a lawyer and advocate. We take some details from Betty and make a time to call her back when it suits her and when she is in a place where she feels safe.
“We explain that we will need to talk to Betty on her own (without Candice present) to ensure that she isn’t being unduly influenced by Candice, but, with Betty’s consent, we can talk with Candice after we speak with Betty,” Ms Blakey said. “This process supports our service’s primary ethos which is to empower and advocate on behalf of the older person.”
*Names have been changed to maintain privacy and protect the confidentiality of our clients.
Acknowledging the recognition with humility and modesty, Dr Barrett (pictured at right with friends) says as an activist in search of social change, she sees being named a finalist not only an honour but also an opportunity to raise awareness around the human rights of older people.
“I left my job at La Trobe three years ago to set up Celebrate Ageing as a social enterprise and I can tell you that was scary stuff,” Dr Barrett recalls. “But, now the work that I do makes my heart sing every day and I absolutely love the work that I do.”
Dr Barrett says she was aware that fellow advocate for older Australians and Seniors Rights Victoria Advocacy Coordinator Philippa Campbell had discussed nominating her for the medal – something she admits ‘moved’ her.
“I think one of the things for me is feeling moved that she actually nominated me,” Dr Barrett says. “Philippa has herself worked with older people for a long time and has a strong sense of social justice and passion for challenging ageism, so to have a colleague I value so highly nominate me is something very special in itself.”
Following the recent announcement of the medal finalists, Ms Campbell took to Twitter to congratulate her friend and colleague: “So I nominated Dr Catherine Barrett for an Australian Human Rights medal after watching her work from a distance, realising that she was making such a difference for many people. And here she is – a finalist. Of course she is!” she wrote.
The winner of the Human Rights Medal will be announced on 14 December 2018.
More information on the awards and finalists can be found online
Brenda was nominated by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) for her advocacy, education and research participation on care services for older members of the LGBTI community, particularly transgender people.
COTA Victoria has been one of the fortunate partners of Brenda’s insight through the Safeguarding the End of the Rainbow, a guide done in conjunction with Transgender Victoria to help LGBTI people plan an end of life of their choice taking into account their life experiences. Seniors Rights Victoria has also benefited from insights into Brenda’s work and lived experiences, through her participation in regular meetings of the Elder Abuse Roundtable, a collegiate group of collaborating professionals working in that field.
“I volunteer because my life has been difficult. It’s difficult when you don’t meet society’s expectations of gender, when you’re different and, I’m trying to make it easier for those coming behind. We need society to be much more accepting of difference,” Brenda said in an interview about the award.
“I know many have struggled with mental health issues, not because they are mentally ill, but because of the stigma and discrimination they face in our very judgemental world….I have a vision that society accepts difference, whatever that might mean”.
Brenda said she enjoyed being an advocate and contributing to her community by volunteering.
For more information about the 2018 Victorian Senior of the Year awards and a list of winners visit seniorsonline.vic.gov.au/awards
The Our Watch project will also create guidelines for reporting related to Aboriginal women, culturally diverse women, women with disabilities, older women and the LGBTI community. Seniors Rights Victoria is participating in the consultations of this project.
“The media is a powerful shaper of culture and attitudes. Language focused on equality and respect for all can change the culture that leads to violence against women,” said Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Natalie Hutchins. “Ending family violence in Victoria requires change on all fronts.”
To read more about the State Government’s objectives, go to Promoting Respect.
A Victorian Government funded project, the Elder Abuse Prevention Network (EAPN) will operate at 10 sites in regional, outer urban and metropolitan areas at an individual and community level, to raise awareness and educate communities about the rights of older people.
Senior Rights Victoria EAPN Project Officer Alexia Huxley said seven sites have been chosen for the networks. They are being run by different organisations including several community health services, a community legal centre and local councils.
The confidential community survey is being conducted by independent consultants Think Impact with the results to be provided to the organisations participating in the prevention work, and included in a guide to prevent elder abuse. No individuals will be identified in these documents.
The short survey is voluntary, with participants not asked to provide any personal information.
“We understand that some people may find this topic difficult. If they do not wish to answer any questions, they are welcome to leave questions blank,” Ms Huxley said.
She said the community was gradually becoming more aware about the mixture of factors causing elder abuse, including lack of respect and valuing of older people, negative media messages that portray older people as a drain on society and behaviour that overlooks or justifies elder abuse.
“These attitudes can be internalised by older people themselves who may also consider that family matters are private and should not be shared, or may feel ashamed of the behaviour of their adult children and not want to ask for assistance,” Ms Huxley said.
In an effort to address some of these issues, the networks are targeting older people’s organisations as well as service agencies, including influential community members – such as pharmacists, librarians and religious leaders – who come into contact with older people and encourage them to see eliminating elder abuse as a matter of social justice.
If this survey raises questions or causes any distress, or you would like to discuss an incident of elder abuse, please contact the free, confidential Helpline of Seniors Rights Victoria: 1300 368 821. If you need help immediately call Lifeline on 131114.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.
WEAAD was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, following a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.
In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.
According to WHO, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 15.7 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.
Individuals, communities, municipalities and organisations will come together across the globe to hold events on 15 June that raise awareness of elder abuse, including many events throughout Victoria. To look up whether an event has been registered in your community go to WEAAD events
Senior Rights Victoria encourages organisations to celebrate the positive contributions of older people in our communities.
“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.
For assistance in seeking publicity for your event, feel free to customise your request for media coverage using our generic media release link on this WEAAD page.
Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting WEAAD by providing re-designed collateral updates your organisation can order via our WEAAD Toolkit This includes bookmarks, posters and magnets with three tag line themes for 2018. There is even a generic poster where you can add your event details. Much of this collateral has been pre-ordered by the supplier to make it quicker for you to access resources, although ribbons have now sold out for 2018.
From this site you can also access a free zip folder with Image Pack Update via the WEAAD resources page where you can download the three generic WEAAD-designed tag themes with various images for your organisation’s use on webpage slides, email banners and social media.
Seniors Rights Victoria is a state-wide service providing information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. For further information about elder abuse please visit our website www.seniorsrights.org.au or contact our free, confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.
Wishing you all the best with your WEAAD celebrations!
Community education coordinator Gary Ferguson and a team of volunteer peer educators enjoy the sessions, helping older people and the professionals working with them to understand how they can prevent elder abuse. For a community educator’s perspective read Gina’s story.
The conversation seeds, such as the image pictured, are used as a starting point for their discussions about elder abuse, the link to ageism and the rights of older people. This image illustrates Lloyd Kahn’s skateboarding story which began at the age of 64. The image is him at 79 years still pursuing his passion. When he was 66 years old he fell off and broke his left arm. The treating doctor at the hospital didn’t tell Lloyd he was too old, but attended to his broken arm and advised how he could skateboard safely by wearing protective gear.
“The topics of ageism and elder abuse present different opportunities and challenges for the initiator of the conversation. Elder abuse is mostly preventable and therefore having conversations can equip the community with knowledge and information to address elder abuse and stop it from happening,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.
“Conversations about difficult topics, such as elder abuse, can be helpful in exploring the issue and lead to people becoming more empowered to assert their rights. Conversations might lead to people disclosing that they’re being abused or mistreated and will therefore provide an opportunity to inform about the availability of support and assistance”.
Ms Blakey said conversations aren’t intended to provide all the answers about elder abuse, but rather to trigger thinking and discussion about the issue and increase people’s knowledge.
She said conversations and narratives also have a natural place in cross cultural groups of seniors where stories have been used historically.
Talks as part of WEAAD this year include events at Warrnambool, Heidelberg West, Murrumbeena, Collingwood, Burwood, Broadford, Altona and Morwell, often in partnership with other organisations.
Feedback from events hosted earlier this year have been very positive:
“The presentation was brilliant with a great deal of material covered but with humour and anticipation to keep the audience involved. The audience learnt a great deal which has already been put to use. The handouts were handy too”.
“(Appreciated Seniors Rights Victoria) Giving such appropriate and timely awareness of this important service, in a manner that was professional and appropriate to our group. We will certainly recommend that other PROBUS clubs also use the service and speaking personally, I now know where to go if I ever have an issue – which may well be the case as we are considering sometime in the next few years, moving to a village of some sort. I know some of our other members are having similar plans…”
Gina brings the breadth of a career in family, youth and child programs and heath prevention. She understands the most important aspect for someone brave enough to share their elder abuse story is to be believed.
“People are often fearful of talking to other people about their situation, they’ve often lived with it for a long time,” Gina said.
A trained, volunteer presenter at community education sessions throughout Victoria for about a year, Gina has taken to the sessions with great enthusiasm, encouraging older people to build their knowledge, confidence and know they have a place when they can go to get help.
“I know in families, even in my family, that some people feel entitled to more than they should, it challenges us all. That’s why prevention is at the heart of what we do,” Gina said.
The community education sessions often present a case study, perhaps a son living back with his mother after a relationship has ended with debts he cannot manage. The son asks his mum for money, he uses the car and lives in the house without contributing to groceries or paying rent. The mother is trying to help the son get back on his feet but he soon starts using her bank account and when she becomes aware of it and says something he becomes verbally abusive and the relationship continues to deteriorate.
“It’s when trust is broken that it is elder abuse. I talk to people after our sessions and they often feel they are under pressure. They can see their adult child is using them, not respecting them, using their resources and they’re not thinking through the consequences,” Gina said.
“They often have a limited income and feel lucky to have an asset, their house, but there is no notion of fairness from their adult child of seeing their parent as an independent older person who has choices about a situation they haven’t initiated. People are usually quiet silent when the case study is being shared, they just nod their heads as the information clicks.
“They often don’t acknowledge it as elder abuse. Elder abuse is such a blunt term. I’m not surprised it occurs but I’m surprised it’s named publicly, and this sends a clear message that this is present in our communities, in our families and it’s not okay”.
Gina is looking forward to speaking at more community education sessions as it gets closer to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June. For information on events go to WEAAD events.
“I will go as often as I can. I enjoy doing this and helping older people understand what they can do to protect themselves and maintain family relationships. I think that is important.”