Monday, 19 June 2017

Australian Law Reform Commission recommends a National Plan to combat elder abuse

"4.40 Stakeholders reported many instances of abuse of people receiving aged care. These included reports of abuse by paid care workers and other residents of care homes, as well as by family members and/or appointed decision makers of care recipients. For example, Alzheimer’s Australia provided the following examples of physical and emotional abuse:
When working as a PCA [personal care assistant] in 2 high care units, I witnessed multiple, daily examples of residents who were unable to communicate being abused including: PCA telling resident to ‘die you f—ing old bitch!’ because she resisted being bed bathed. Hoist lifting was always done by one PCA on their own not 2 as per guidelines and time pressures meant PCAs often using considerable physical force to get resistive people into hoists; resident not secured in hoist dropped through and broke arm—died soon after; residents being slapped, forcibly restrained and force-fed or not fed at all; resident with no relatives never moved out of bed, frequently left alone for hours without attention; residents belongings being stolen and food brought in by relatives eaten by PCAs."
[Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131), p.110]

In 2016 people 65 years of age and over comprised 15.3 per cent of the Australian population. This represents over 3.5 million older people, a figure the Australian Bureau of Statistics expects to grow to  9.6 million people by 2064.

The Turnbull Government needs to consider the recently published Australian Law Reform Commission report and act on its recommendations.

Australian Law Reform Commission, media release, 15 June 2017:
Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is delighted to be launching its Report, Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131), on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017.

The ALRC was asked to consider Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks and how they might better protect older persons from misuse or abuse, and safeguard their autonomy.

The Report includes 43 recommendations for law reform. The overall effect will be to safeguard older people from abuse and support their choices and wishes through:

* improved responses to elder abuse in residential aged care;
* enhanced employment screening of care workers;
* greater scrutiny regarding the use of restrictive practices in aged care;
* building trust and confidence in enduring documents as important advanced planning tools;
* protecting older people when ‘assets for care’ arrangements go wrong;
* banks and financial institutions protecting vulnerable customers from abuse;
better succession planning across the self-managed superannuation sector;
* adult safeguarding regimes protecting and supporting at-risk adults.

These outcomes should be further pursued through a National Plan to combat elder abuse and new empirical research into the prevalence of elder abuse.
ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Commissioner-in-charge of the inquiry, said, “In developing the recommendations in this Report, we have worked to balance the autonomy of older people with providing appropriate protections, respecting the choices that older persons make, but also safeguarding them from abuse.”

The Report represents the culmination of research and consultation over a 15-month period, during which the ALRC consulted with 117 stakeholders around the country, released two consultation documents, and received more than 450 submissions.

Professor Croucher said:  “The ALRC is indebted to the broad range of individuals and organisations who have contributed to evidence base that informs its recommendations. In particular I thank the many individuals who generously shared with the ALRC personal stories of heartache and frustration, and of families torn apart by elder abuse. It is significant that the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, has chosen to mark the launch of the Report today —with advocates and service providers —at the 2017 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Forum.”

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