Elder Abuse & Neglect the Norm Not the Exception

The Royal Commission in Australia into the Aged Care Sector has been a two-year-long inquiry where distressing accounts of abuse and neglect have been the norm rather than the exception. The last of the submissions from lawyers will be heard today.

The Commission was told that in Australia an estimated 50 elderly people were sexually assaulted in aged facilities per week.

Included in submissions are mandatory staffing ratios and new laws to protect the rights of the elderly. From July 2022, it is proposed that residential care providers must have personal care workers, caregivers, and nurses dedicate at least 215 minutes to the average resident per day. Providers need to champion the reforms proposed to effect change, making sure that they take leadership responsibilities seriously and that they are held accountable when neglect or abuse is found to have occurred.

Sexual assault in residential homes was of real concern, with the Commission receiving 588 submissions regarding sexual assault in homes. In the 2014-15 year reported sexual assault allegations totalled 426 and this figure rose to 790 in 2018-19.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Rozen QC said the real number was likely significantly higher as reporting requirements meant many allegations went undocumented. Assaults are not reportable if the alleged perpetrator was a fellow resident with cognitive or mental impairment, or if providers had plans in place to manage their behaviour.

Rozen continued that the best estimates of alleged sexual contact were an average of 50 per week, amounting to a "national shame".

“It is entirely unacceptable,” Rozen added. “That people in residential aged care face a substantially higher risk of assault than people living in the community.”

Other proposals include the creation of an independent authority to determine aged care prices and a new independent Australian Aged Care Commission responsible for regulation.

Elder abuse is a global problem, here in New Zealand elderly vulnerable people are also abused and neglected often by family members. Much abuse is unreported to agencies, but last year Age Concern’s elder abuse services received more than 2,200 referrals.  Two-thirds of these were confirmed to involve elder abuse or neglect.

More than one type of abuse usually occurs in these situations of which:
• more than 70% involved psychological abuse
• more than 50% involved financial abuse
• 18% involved physical abuse
• 18% involved neglect
• 18% involved self-neglect

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