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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017

Published: 15 June 2017

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an important date on which to make a commitment to address this serious issue and the devastating impacts it has on older Australians, says the President of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Professor Karen Healy AM.

“We need greater awareness of the complexities of elder abuse, including the dynamics and circumstances that contribute to its prevalence”, said Professor Healy.

“This is fundamentally a human rights issue and days like today are an opportunity for our community to better understand its different forms."

Professor Healy said that the focus continues to be predominantly on physical abuse at the expense of other and more prevalent manifestations. For example, financial abuse is actually one of the more common forms, perpetrated mainly by the older person’s adult children and grandchildren. People over 65 years old are the most rapidly growing age group in Australia. They are also the wealthiest cohort, increasing their risk of being targeted.

“Financial institutions need to play a key role in stopping this form of abuse," said Professor Healy.

She says that we need a rights-based national strategy to deal with harm to vulnerable older people, to investigate and respond to allegations of abuse, and to respond to people at risk of self-neglect.

“It is crucial that we have highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who can provide supports in relation to an older person’s psychosocial needs and, in doing so, be able to identify and intervene in situations where abuse may be occurring,” Professor Healy said.

“The aged care system desperately needs greater involvement from allied health professionals, including social workers, but residents of aged care facilities continue to be excluded from accessing Medicare-funded mental health supports. Addressing elder abuse requires a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, but this is one measure the government can immediately take."

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers