World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD)
May 16 2018
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.
WEAAD was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, following a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.
This year (the name of organisation) will be hosting a (name/type of event) on (day, date) to raise awareness about elder abuse.
(Organisation name), (Title of organiser/spokesperson), (Name of spokesperson), said it was important to raise awareness about elder abuse as it can be experienced by older people with little recognition or response.
“This is a social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community, including this community,” (name of spokesperson) said.
According to the World Health Organisation, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 10 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.
In most cases elder abuse is an intergenerational form of family violence. In 2016-17, people aged 60 years or over made up just over 5,400 of the family members affected in family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police (Crime Statistics Agency).
Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said there was a growing acknowledgement of elder abuse as a form of family violence but still a big disconnect when it came to the highest incidence of abuse – financial – which accounts for 75 per cent of abuse cases managed by the state-wide elder abuse support service.
“Just as respectful relationships within families help prevent family violence, respect for older family members is a primary protection against elder abuse, particularly when it comes to a family’s financial arrangements,” Ms Blakey said.
“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families. There is no excuse for elder abuse.”
Ms Blakey said the warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Disappearance of possessions, unexplained financial transactions, and changes to a will, property title or other documents are also of concern. While the mistreatment of an older person may be carried out by one family member, it is often other family members who are best placed to support their parent or grandparent against the abuse, provided they recognise what is happening. Like other forms of family violence, most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.
Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by making sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are clearly stated and recorded in a family. Older people must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to state when they are not comfortable with an arrangement. Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse, or family members concerned about an older person, can get help by calling Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821 Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The website for more information is www.seniorsrights.org.au.
For more information or interviews please contact (insert organisation contact name and mobile) or Seniors Rights Victoria’s Media and Communications Adviser Amanda Kunkler on 0407 329 055.
Download WEAAD Media Release 2018
Seniors Rights Victoria and the Office of Public Advocate hosted a booked-out forum at Melbourne Town Hall, at which the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, launched (via video link) the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report ‘Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response’. We welcomed the release of the Report and commend the Australian Government on recognising the need for this Inquiry, which will provide a strong foundation for future action.
We were pleased to see so many communities coming together to celebrate the rights of older people and raise awareness about elder abuse. In Victoria alone, more than 40 events took place, with the support of local councils, public libraries, community legal centres, neighbourhood houses, aged care facilities, health services and other organisations. Awareness of elder abuse was also raised through print media, radio, television and social media.
We thank all of the organisations and individuals who “went purple” on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to support the rights of older people to live safely and with dignity.
Each year, Seniors Rights Victoria receives thousands of enquiries from people experiencing elder abuse or worried about someone they know. Elder abuse, a type of family violence, includes any act which harms an older person and is carried out by someone they trust such as an adult child, family member, partner, carer or friend. For free, confidential help, call Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821.
Pictured: Seniors Rights Victoria staff at the WEAAD 2017 Forum at Melbourne Town Hall
We thought her Purple Recipe Campaign was great and wanted to share it here too. If you have a great purple recipe, share it via the blog – who knows, we might be able to have everyone eating purple on Sunday June 15!
“This is a family recipe that my grandmother has passed on through each generation and that we enjoy still today at all of our family gatherings. This is definitely one of my favourites.”
500ml whipping cream
2 tsp of natural purple food colouring
1 tbsp white sugar
30 savoiardi biscuits
1/2 can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of marsala wine or sweet sherry
blueberries to decorate
LET’S START COOKING!
Financial abuse most common
Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) manager Jenny Blakey said that financial abuse was the most common form of abuse reported through the SRV helpline. In acknowledgement of that fact, this year’s annual SRV WEEAD forum, Human Rights are Ageless, will focus on how assets and funds are transferred through generations.
Men and women can be affected
Another free forum, Legal Matters for Older Fellas, will provide an opportunity for older men to discuss issues of concern with lawyers and other professionals.
Photo by Simon O’Dwyer, The Age. This video is from the Commissioner’s Blog.
More information about the Commissioner for Senior Victorians is also available on Seniors Online. If you would like to contact the Commissioner about a social participation issue, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And a bruise on display
It’s more than a tear on a wrinkled cheek
Or a failure to pay
It’s a fearful look in a watery eye
A downturned mouth
And a heartfelt sigh
Pity those who treat their loved ones
We pray they never experience abuse and neglect
Written by Caroline Granger
As an elder abuse advocate, I have seen first hand the all too tragic results of this combination. Sometimes, it’s the patronising way a worker communicates with an older person, sometimes its blatant discrimination by agencies and institutions, and sometimes its much, much worse……
Let me tell you about Arthur (or “dad” as we shall also call him)…….
In 2011 Arthur, who is 77, began to exhibit early signs of dementia. He forgot things, got a little muddled sometimes and needed a little prompting about birthdays and paying accounts. Other than this, Arthur was living an independent and relatively fulfilling life. He was well connected socially, had a dog that he loved (and loved him), was playing golf regularly and was keeping himself and his small home in reasonably good order, although he admitted it wasn’t as good as when his wife was alive. When he had any uncertainties about all of this, he tended to ring his eldest daughter (most often for recipes or how to clean a doona).
Trouble was, his oldest daughter could see “the writing on the wall” – or at least that’s how she described it to her brother. She was convinced that dad would be better off in an aged care facility where he could have all the services he needed. Besides, dad was probably lonely now that mum was gone so this was the best place for him. Her brother certainly didn’t want the burden of caring for their dad, so the decision was made – he would be moved into an aged care facility.
A capacity assessment was organised so that a suitable placement could be arranged. Unsurprisingly, Arthur resisted, but this was viewed as “normal” by the professionals involved so a good deal of persuasion was aimed at Arthur and as the tension within the family had began to mount, causing his anxiety and stress levels to increase (exacerbating his muddle-headedness) Arthur reluctantly acquiesced to the assessment.
Naturally, with the elevated stress, things didn’t go well for Arthur and he was assessed as having only “limited capacity” which allowed his daughter to apply to VCAT for guardianship. She was able to show that her father was a danger to himself, citing an occasion when he had left the stove gas jets on). His age was duly considered and Guardianship was awarded. Arthur’s son was made Administrator. As a result, his home was placed on the market to pay for the aged care facility bond, and he was admitted to the facility in mid 2012.
When asked, he believed his age and his forgetfulness were his “enemies” and that these had been used against him by family and professionals alike. He resented the loss of power and the fact that his own wishes had been ignored. Sadly for Arthur, his dementia has since plateaued (and not worsened as anticipated) and it is likely that he faces upwards of 10-15 years in institutional care (with almost no independence), rather than in his family home.
Arthur isn’t alone. I have seen many more instances where a person’s age and “forgetfulness” have been used to remove a person’s independence, primarily through Enduring Powers of Attorney and Guardianship orders. It is common to hear older people say that they have noticed distinct changes in the way that their family, friends and service providers treat them as they age or once early dementia begins to be evident. “They treat me like a child” is perhaps the saddest comment.
At the present, there is a draft Bill on Powers of Attorney before the Victorian State Government for which the Department of Justice is calling for comments. This is a timely Bill, given the fact that by the year 2050 the number of people aged 65 and over will have doubled and the number of people with dementia will have tripled. We know that a person’s vulnerability to elder abuse dramatically increases when both these factors are at play.
The Bill is also timely, given the extent to which Enduring Powers of Attorney and Guardianship are misunderstood, not only by the donors and recipients, but also by a wide range of professionals who are frequently presented with these documents, including police, aged care workers, bank tellers and GP’s, with, as I have said and as we saw with Arthur, disastrous consequences.
Removal of an adult’s right to make their own decisions, good or bad, is a serious matter. Doing so without proper and thorough investigation is a form of elder abuse. We all need to remember (and this is an important point) that being “a pest” or “a burden” is not a crime. There are many strategies to resolve these issues that do not involve removal of an individual’s rights and independence.
It is up to all of us to be fully aware of how ageism and dementia-ism can colour our perceptions of older people and the way in which we communicate and/or assist them. When we see it occurring, we should challenge it and raise awareness of the implications wherever and whenever possible.
After all, one day, Arthur’s story could be yours…..
Written by Kaz Mackay
Elder Abuse Prevention Co-ordinator, Eastern Community Legal Centre
For World Elder Abuse Awarness Day, 2014