Elder abuse report ignores impact on people’s health
The long awaited Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report into elder abuse is a substantial step forward in addressing physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and financial abuse of the elderly. An article published in The Conversation welcomes the report, but highlights some of the more hidden aspects of abuse and neglect such as sexual assault. Sexual assault, the authors argue, is the least acknowledged, detected, and reported type, especially in people living in residential aged care. They believe it deserves far more attention. This is especially important considering the role of the health sector and health professionals who should be working to improve identifying, reporting, managing and responding to sexual assaults. Currently, care staff and health professionals are poorly equipped to appropriately identify and respond to sexual assault. This situation is not helped by the lack of supporting policies in aged care facilities to investigate and support victims.
The authors write: “These situations persist because of community inaction. We are reluctant to accept the possibility of these incidents because they are too horrific to contemplate. We reassure and rationalise our inaction by saying the perpetrators are a very small minority of criminally minded individuals, which is not the reality. In fact the perpetrators are more often a person who is in a position of trust such as a family member or carer.”
According to the authors, “the greatest challenge in preventing elder abuse is equipping the law, health and aged care sectors to be better at screening, identifying and intervening to protect the rights of the elderly. Incredible sensitivity is also required as the vast majority of children, partners and care staff are fabulous advocates and supporters of older people.” They go on to say that: ‘More research is also needed to inform decisions about social policy, aged care practice and resource allocation. This requires a dedicated, co-ordinated, multidisciplinary approach and the necessary technical expertise in aged care, law, health care, public health, injury prevention and public policy.’
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