FAQs for family and friends

Your questions answered:

I’m concerned about an older family member or friend, who I suspect is being abused. Can I call Seniors Rights Victoria?

Seniors Rights Victoria’s focuses on empowering older Victorians to regain control, and to have autonomy and dignity in determining their own circumstances. This means the service prefers to deal direct with the older person wherever possible.

Family members or friends who call Seniors Rights Victoria with a concern about an older person’s welfare will be asked to encourage the older person to make contact themselves. If the older person cannot do that, Seniors Rights Victoria will seek an assurance that the call has been made with the older person’s knowledge and permission, and that the older person has given permission for Seniors Rights Victoria to contact them.  Or, Seniors Rights Victoria may arrange through the caller to meet with the older person if the older person has agreed to attend.  Seniors Rights Victoria can do home visits or visits in aged care facilities if the older person is unable to come to one of our offices.

How can I help my older family member or friend to access Seniors Rights Victoria’s services?
Seniors Rights Victoria can only help an older person if they consent to our assistance.  If you are concerned about an older family member or friend, talk to them about the Seniors Rights Service and then if they agree, help them to get access to a phone in a safe place where they can make a private call. You could also help them attend an interview with an Seniors Rights Victoria staff member if they have arranged one.

If the older person needs to use an interpreter during the call, Seniors Rights Victoria can call them using a telephone interpreter service. Seniors Rights Victoria can also arrange for an interpreter to attend an in-person interview.

What if an older person who is definitely being abused won’t or can’t call Seniors Rights Victoria?
If you know an older family member or friend is in immediate physical danger or at risk of significant harm, you should contact the emergency services (police and/or ambulance) on 000.

If you know your older family member or friend is being abused and you cannot access them and they cannot access Seniors Rights Victoria, you can call Seniors Rights Victoria to seek information and to discuss ways Seniors Rights Victoria could contact and assist the older person.

How does Seniors Rights Victoria support and assist an older person who does not want to take action against an abusive family member or carer?
Seniors Rights Victoria’s advocates support all our clients by helping them to identify and access other services they may need (such as HACC services, Aged Care Assessments and CAC packages, housing, medical services or counselling), whether or not they want to take legal action against an abuser or to recover property that has been misappropriated.

A priority for Seniors Rights Victoria’s advocates is to agree on a safety plan with any client who is at risk of violence. This plan will cover situations where they need to leave home at short notice to avoid physical harm, and will include who they can call, where they will go and how they will get there, and what they need to take with them, including medication and key documents.

How does Seniors Rights Victoria assist older people who have diminished capacity or no capacity?
As Seniors Rights Victoria treats capacity as decision-specific, staff may be able to assist a client with some matters (e.g. assistance around family violence) but not others (e.g. appointing a financial attorney).  It is therefore important that Seniors Rights Victoria staff meet the client first to assess what assistance can be provided, even where the client has diminished capacity.

Where Seniors Rights Victoria staff have assessed that a client does not have the capacity to provide specific instructions in relation to a particular matter, Seniors Rights Victoria may still assist the client by:
• acting for the person’s formally appointed decision maker (e.g. Attorney, Administrator or Guardian)
• providing short-term advocacy and support where there is abuse or risk of abuse, usually by linking the older person into services that can assist them
• helping to put in place a substitute decision maker for the older person.

How does Seniors Rights Victoria approach the question of a person’s capacity?
Seniors Rights Victoria accepts that a person’s capacity may diminish gradually or may fluctuate and may vary in response to particular decisions that need to be made.  For example, a person who has lost capacity to make informed financial or investment decisions may still be quite capable of deciding how they want to live and who they want to live with.

The question of whether a person has capacity to give instructions and to understand the effect of their instructions is initially determined and documented by the Seniors Rights Victoria staff member/s who have had contact with the client in question. Where the staff member is unsure about the older person’s capacity, Seniors Rights Victoria will arrange for a medical assessment of the person’s capacity by a professional trained in the area, such as a geriatrician, psycho-geriatrician or psychiatrist.