A new HealthPathway for Abuse and Neglect of Older People has been established to address this growing community concern.
HealthPathways Clinical Editor Dr Hilton Koppe said the Royal Commission into Aged Care, which handed down its final report in February, had highlighted the issue.
‘The pathway encourages clinicians to think about specific groups of people who might be at greater risk of elder abuse,’ Dr Koppe said.
‘It provides a stratified approach to management – looking at people at lower risk through to those at higher risk.
‘The other thing from a GP perspective is that it includes information about mandatory reporting requirements, which GPs may not know about. There are links to appropriate resources and hotlines to contact in case of need.’
Healthy North Coast’s Deputy Director of Healthy Living and Ageing Bron McCrae said that in more than 50% of cases of elder abuse and neglect, it was a family member – often a son or a daughter – who was responsible for the mistreatment.
She said it was likely a significant amount of elder abuse was not reported and often offenders weren’t aware their behaviour was abusive.
‘Financial abuse is common,’ Ms McCrae said. ‘For example, once family members support an older person into a nursing home, they often don’t see the need for the person’s finances to continue to go to the older person. That is a form of abuse.
‘When carers are looking after people with dementia, physical and verbal abuse are not uncommon. Carer burnout is a big part of it. It’s a very complex area.’
She said there were, however, preventative strategies that primary care practitioners could put in place to ensure people retained control as they aged. These strategies include having in place Power of Attorney, Enduring Guardianship and Advance Care Directives.
‘These three key documents are significant preventative strategies, providing the older person is educated to appoint people who will uphold their rights,’ Ms McCrae said.
The new HealthPathway includes information about various types of elder abuse and neglect, how to manage different situations, and details on referral, depending on the extent of the problem.
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