When Seniors Rights Victoria’s peer educator Gina Fiske has an older person start to talk to her about the disrespect they are being shown in the family, she stops talking and listens.
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.”