Working on a webinar about policies and protections for seniors meant I was exploring reports and cases about elder abuse. This is an area of interest to me as I, like many nurses have held grave concerns about some actions and behaviours directed at vulnerable seniors on the job and in the wider community.
One report was extensive and very legalistic. The author writing for the Sydney Law Review explored an enormous range of legal and policy issues as well as examples of elder abuse in Australia (Neglectful to the Point of Cruelty? Elder Abuse and the Rights of Older Persons in Australia; Wendy Lacey).
Among the many thought provoking discussions was a key to my own confusion about why it has been so hard to point to solutions or processes when faced with a suspicion of elder abuse. For many of us working in community and aged care environments there have been times we wondered if there was a real problem or what to do when faced with evidence. Where do we go for advice and to report?
“Compounding the prevalent, yet hidden, problem of elder abuse, is a complex constitutional situation where the responsibility for safeguarding vulnerable adults lies primarily with the state and territory governments, but where responsibility for ageing and aged care has increasingly been appropriated by the Commonwealth” (Lacey 2015: 101). There are no specific State offices to contact although of course reporting to the police and to AHPRA under mandatory guidelines is an option.
The Queensland Government does have a website that I found informative. It gives direction to the public and health professionals and of particular interest to me was the series of questions and actions a worried nurse might initiate to get a clear picture. In relation to elder abuse I cannot recall any specific training or education during my career, I doubt I am the only nurse who has had to gather my own information through experience and self-research. The website might be of interest to you: https://www.qld.gov.au/seniors/safety-protection/info-health-professionals/index.html
In my time I have contacted social workers to initiate investigations and take actions. As the Australian Association of Social Workers states “Social workers are uniquely placed to hold both a broad and an in-depth view of the multiple issues facing older Australians within a rights based context and with a focus on social justice”. Seems a bit silly looking back at those occasions, a bit of sliding out of responsibility but practical terms, responsibility for addressing elder abuse lay with the states and territories where I was working. They had and continue to have variable and relatively weak policy frameworks and no specific agencies I could turn to.
Given the enormous amount of information and publications I discovered and calls for policy changes and proactive measures to prevent and combat elder abuse there will no doubt be changes in our society sooner rather than later to deal with this terrible issue.
There are some fabulous webinar recordings by Pam Savage regarding Nurses and the Law on the Nurses for Nurses Network . The Nurses for Nurses Network provides good information and CPD on an array of nursing topics in a range of easy learning ways including webinars and quizzes on the latest information that Nurses need to know – remember the Nurses for Nurses Network was created by Australian Nurses for Nurses ! www.nursesfornurses.com.au