Older Person’s Abuse Prevention

The Seniors and Disability Rights Service has hosted an Elder Abuse Prevention Project supported by the Office of Senior Territorians.  The project is aimed at identifying the extent and nature of elder abuse in the NT, the effectiveness of current responses, raising community awareness and limiting its impact.

Elder abuse is defined as; ‘A single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.’

The most reported form of abuse is financial abuse. Other types of abuse include;

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • neglect
  • sexual abuse

The mistreatment of older people occurs in all communities and ethnic groups. The abuser is often a family member, carer, neighbour or friend. Victims may be dependent upon the abuser for care or services and may be reluctant to complain due to fear of retribution or loss of services.

Every abuse situation is different, and often talking with someone outside the situation can help.

The DCLS Specialist Elder Abuse Unit currently covers the whole of the NT but pilot funding for this initial project is due to expire at the end of 2018.  The Project built on the existing advocacy services of the Seniors and Disability Rights Service to promote education, community awareness activities, advocacy, and legal assistance to urban, rural and remote communities.

During 2018, the Project consulted with numerous lawyers, social workers, remote area nurses, aged care service providers and carers in Nhulunbuy, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Darwin to identify issues, protective strategies and training requirements.

In February 2018, as part of the Project, an online survey was developed and distributed to service providers and carers throughout the Territory and has served to provide a strong indication of issues of concern for service providers and older people themselves.

In 2020 a series of workshops were developed to roll out to service providers to assist front line workers to identify and deal with  abuse . This project is continuing in 2021.

Throughout the Project, various resources were developed in the form of Fact Sheets about Elder Abuse, Wills, Advance Personal Plans, Financial Abuse and Adult Guardianship. Information Sessions about Wills, Advance Personal Plans and Adult Guardianship have been developed and delivered to aged care service providers. A workshop, Elder Abuse Basics, has been developed and delivered to service providers in NT regional centres.

Darwin Community Legal Service operates the Elder Abuse Information Line to assist elderly people suffering from abuse, making referrals to support organisations and providing legal information to people wanting to make informed choices about their situation. The Elder Abuse Information Line (1800 037 072) is available from 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday and is free to call from landlines and public phones. If you are calling from a mobile phone, please let us know and we can call you back.

About the NT Safety Toolkit: responding to Older Person’s Abuse
This Toolkit should be used as a resource, and not a definitive guide. Community workers should consult their workplace policies and/or their supervisor when making decisions regarding older person abuse. Members of the public can seek out further
information and assistance from the resources listed at ‘Where to go for more information’ on page 22.

Older person abuse is an increasingly prevalent and prominent issue, with high rates in community and institutional settings such as nursing homes and aged care facilities. In Australia and internationally, the population profile is dramatically changing, for
example it is projected that by 2066, older people will make up between 21-23% of the total Australian population.

Ageing in-place, with dignity, safety and respect is a major priority in the NT where it is estimated that between 2011 and 2041, the number of:
Non-Indigenous people in the NT aged 65 and over will increase 242 percent
Indigenous people;
in the NT aged 65 and over will increase 340 percent
between ages 50-54 will increase roughly 20 percent
between ages 55-59 will increase almost 60 percent

While Older Person Abuse is known to be common in the NT, information about the extent of the problem is limited and there are few easy solutions. It is critically important to collect credible data on the incidence of older person abuse so that we can better
understand the nature and prevalence of the problem. That said, the importance of people’s stories must be captured. Like other forms of domestic and family violence, the reality of abuse is best communicated through lived experience.
A survey conducted by DCLS in 2020 found that 72% of older person abuse victims were women, with 62% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. In 75% of these cases, the abuser was a family member. Financial abuse was the most
common form of abuse.

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