We must face the uncomfortable truth about elder abuse

June 15, 2021

Residential aged care workers are in a unique position to identify signs of elder abuse and take actions to protect the rights of residents in their care.

The Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) is supporting those working in residential aged care across Australia to recognise, respond, and report elder abuse – whether physical, emotional, sexual or financial.

Working closely with practitioners and consumer representatives, the VHA developed a suite of interactive training resources for residential aged care workers that are designed to build staff confidence and capacity on this sensitive and pressing issue.

Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan MP, launched the VHA’s new resources on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – an internationally recognised day that highlights one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society.

VHA CEO Tom Symondson said he hoped the new training tools would give staff working in public sector residential aged care services and other aged care homes throughout Victoria confidence to recognise and respond to incidents of elder abuse.

‘The resources recognise the need to create a safe environment for residents through increased staff understanding and management of elder abuse that affects older people across care and community settings,’ he said.

‘A skilled and motivated workforce is essential to delivering sector reform. The VHA looks forward to continuing our work with the public sector residential aged care sector to uplift workforce capacity and capability.’

The prevalence of elder abuse is an uncomfortable truth our society must face. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found that in 2019–20, residential aged care services reported 5,718 allegations of assault under the mandatory reporting requirements of the Aged Care Act. However, a further study estimated that, in the same year, an additional 27,000 to 39,000 alleged assaults occurred that were exempt from mandatory reporting.

Dr Lisa Clinnick, Director Aged Care Services at Ballarat Health Services said elder abuse is a social issue which affects the health, wellbeing, independence and human rights of older people across the country.

‘It’s an issue that deserves the attention of everyone in the community,’ she said.

‘It’s time for us to acknowledge the value older Victorians bring to our society and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities, families and carers. There is no excuse for elder abuse.’