Intergenerational video shines light on elder abuse

Children from The Patch Primary School and a Positive Ageing Reference Group from Yarra Ranges Council will be acknowledged for a wonderful intergenerational video collaboration at Senior Rights Victoria’s 10th anniversary celebration.

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.

Here The Patch Primary School clip.

Stacey’s story – Seniors Rights thanks founding Helpline

Seniors Rights Victoria gratefully acknowledged the wonderful spirit of long-time Helpline advocate Stacey van Dueren, when she recently retired from 10 years in the role. Stacey led the way with her skill and expertise and was happy to reflect on how elder abuse response has changed over those years.

Stacey, pictured in the centre with her colleagues, said she took the first call when the Helpline was first started 10 years ago through Seniors’ Information Victoria, working as part of a team of only five people.

“The phone had a different ring tone. There was a lot to learn in those early days because there was a lot less knowledge about elder abuse,” Stacey said.

Stacey said the frequency of calls has definitely grown over time, as is reflected by the statistics gathered by the service and the expansion of the program.

“The calls were different in the past and now callers are far more specific, whether they are calling for themselves, or calling for friends or neighbours for whom they are concerned and then there’s more calls from service providers seeking advice,” she said.

She said there were a lot more calls now about adult children, sibling rivalry and societal challenges such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and costs associated with housing and living.

Stacey said the main attribute needed to answer the Helpline was to listen, then to work out how to navigate the conversation to respond appropriately and determine whether the caller simply needs advice, or more support from the lawyers and advocates on staff.

“My role was to provide information, to determine whether it goes to the next stage and to make good referrals as often callers have been around and around seeking information from service providers. I’d often ring the referral service myself on their behalf,” she said.

“I like the conversations. You build rapport and trust by listening from the first point. Not all calls are hard, and even when they are you can create some levity, some hope…and continuity if they call back, even if anonymously, when they are ready for the next step.”

Stacey said it was paramount the Helpline reassured callers, including older people, of their privacy, and provided them with enough information so they felt supported to make their own decisions.

She said it was great to see the progress made in community awareness about elder abuse, how to respond to it and how to educate people with the aim of preventing it occurring.

“A good day is when you have an older person speaking to our service in a safe place, ready to take the next step and you can help them get it all in place. I will miss this role but that’s good, I’m ready to take on the next challenge,” Stacey said.

Elder abuse service pilots dementia project

Seniors Rights Victoria is pleased to announce it has received funding from the Department of Justice and Regulation to partner with Dementia Australia (DA) for a pilot series of legal information sessions and clinics in Victoria. Advocacy is an integral component of the project to ensure a holistic response to the non-legal needs of participants.

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.

Government names final elder abuse prevention sites

The last three elder abuse prevention networks have now been contracted by the Victorian State Government.

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.

National community legal conference includes elder abuse

Seniors Rights Victoria principal lawyer Rebecca Edwards joined a panel discussion about elder abuse at the National Association of Community Legal Centres conference hosted last month.

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:

  • Susan Ryan AO, the former Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner who provided a broad national context for elder abuse, including discussing the prevalence of elder abuse, its roots in stereotyping, discrimination and ageism, and an expansive view of Commonwealth actions and opportunities.
  • Russell Westacott, Seniors Rights Service NSW CEO who provided a timeline summary of elder abuse in the national context over the past 10 years, including a discussion of the development of the proposed National Plan, creation of Elder Abuse Action Australia and current funding opportunities.
  • Megan King, a lawyer at Seniors Law, Justice Connect, is based at St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne. Megan described the three different elder abuse health justice partnerships run by Justice Connect and the differences between them; one in a community health setting, one in an acute hospital setting and one in a sub-acute hospital setting.

Ms Edwards said her talk focused on recognising that elder abuse often occurs in the context of a complex matrix of psychosocial and legal issues. For example, when the abuser is the victim’s child, the parent is often torn between their own abusive situation and their legal rights, and the desire to care for and support their adult child.

“Some key features of the model we use is to have the capacity for home visits, to have a client-centred focus, to do a risk assessment at an early stage and provide genuine integration between the disciplines supporting the older person,” Ms Edwards said.

“The benefits of the model is that it enables a holistic approach – from the beginning the older person has their social, legal, emotional and practical issues considered, empowering but not pushing to person to take legal action, but facilitating access to justice with the support of the advocates and the lawyer.”

NARI director joins Seniors Rights Victoria advisory committee

Seniors Rights Victoria is pleased to announce that Briony Dow, Director of the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) and Associate Professor of Ageing at the University of Melbourne, has joined its Elder Abuse Advisory Committee.

The Elder Abuse Advisory Committee contribute to the strategic direction of Senior Rights Victoria, to support its operations and make recommendations to the board of the Council on the Ageing Victoria, of which Seniors Rights Victoria is a program.

Briony has worked on a number of joint research projects with Seniors Rights Victoria and/or its staff, including Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria in 2018; Understanding Elder Abuse Scoping Study in 2017; and The Older Person’s Experience: Outcomes of Interventions into Elder Abuse in 2016.

At NARI, Briony oversees a range of both social and clinical gerontology research programs, including her own research into elder abuse and carer mental health. At the University of Melbourne, Briony teaches a subject in the on-line Masters of Ageing.

Briony has been at NARI for 15 years during which time she has published over 60 peer reviewed publications and over 30 major reports to government. Prior to her work at NARI, Briony practised as a social worker in community aged care. She is a past President of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) and she represents NARI and the AAG on the Australian Government’s Aged Care data Advisory Group and the Australian Aged Care Quality Indicators Technical Advisory Panel.

The team at Seniors Rights Victoria is delighted to have Briony’s expertise join the advisory committee, which also consists of George Koulis, John Chestman, Ian Dunn, Ron Burke and Aaron Wiley.

Media reporting to gain family violence insight

The Victorian Government has announced a $425,000 grant to Our Watch to deliver their new media reporting program, which seeks to improve media reporting on family violence and violence against women as part of its work to change harmful and sexist attitudes.

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.

Safeguarding the rights of older people forum

Sunbury community partners are hosting a community information session about  safeguarding the rights, dignity and independence of older people on Tuesday, October 30, from 2-3:30pm.

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

 

Legal Matters & Ageing Forum

Take the chance to ask the experts about some of the most common legal issues affecting older people at this free community event being hosted on Tuesday, 16 October, at Safety Beach Community Centre, from 10:30am-1pm.

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

Share your views on elder abuse

Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting the Elder Abuse Prevention Networks project across the state by assisting the implementation of a community survey about elder abuse.

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.