OPAN and Elder Abuse
Through the work of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) in the areas of aged care advocacy, information and education, there are opportunities for OPAN organisations to address issues of elder abuse and provide additional support for people facing this problem. Elder Abuse is unfortunately a reality for many vulnerable people. Although most elder abuse happens in families and other relationships of trust, elder abuse also occurs at times in care facilities.
OPAN aims to provide an immediate response to elder abuse within aged care (community and residential) and to prospective users of aged care services. Although traditionally OPAN organisations have not been funded for specific elder abuse work outside of this, in recognition of the wider work they have done, the Minister for Aged Care has provided OPAN with $1 million to support elder abuse prevention activities.
In 2017- 2018 this grant was used to support new and existing OPAN elder abuse projects, with the aim of formulating a national focus on elder abuse prevention activities. Initiatives already undertaken include an independent review of OPAN’s elder abuse advocacy and prevention programs as seen below.
In the May 2018 Federal Budget, the Minister for Aged Care granted OPAN a further $2 million over two years to trial a roll out of elder abuse advocacy services nation-wide.
The funding is also supporting the existing elder abuse service run by OPAN’s South Australian member organisation Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS). This service has been recognised as delivering the best and most mature elder abuse prevention and advocacy service in Australia. In 2017 – 2018 OPAN is testing this service model at a national level with the other OPAN member organisations.
An investment in building capacity in the areas of supported decision making and understanding and responding to elder abuse in rural and remote areas is also being supported through new projects. These identified needs have been recognised as significant national issues in the recent Australian Law Reform Commission report https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/elder-abuse- report. The projects aim to address these issues to reduce their impact on Australia’s vulnerable elderly.
OPAN is committed to continue to work on elder abuse prevention activities now that the Minister for Aged Care has provided further funding to support OPAN in addressing this national crisis.
One of the OPAN service delivery organisations, Senior Rights Service released The Abuse of Older People: A Community Response Final Report on 29 May 2018. This widely endorsed report sets out an agenda that the community sector has articulated as a set of priorities that need to be embraced by policy-makers and governments to effectively reduce the risk of elder abuse in Australian society whilst also supporting those affected. The strategy day which led to the production of this report was sponsored by OPAN and the Attorney-General’s Department.
OPAN’s National Elder Abuse Prevention and Advocacy Framework
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) member organisations have for some time now been addressing elder abuse issues in order to uphold these rights, through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, through State or Territory elder abuse service provision as well as other funded advocacy and prevention work.
The work and activities have been of benefit to both users of aged care services and older people who are potential aged care service users. Contact has come through active engagement of older people and their families during information and education provision in the community. Elder abuse, and risk of elder abuse has also come to light when older people, their carers and families contact OPAN and its service delivery organisations requesting generalised and individual advocacy. This can be related to aged care, but also as the older person requests information and assistance in relation to other health, human services or community services.
In 2017, it was recommended that OPAN develop a nationally consistent approach to its work in elder abuse prevention. To this end, the National Elder Abuse Prevention and Advocacy Framework has been developed. The goal of this was to deliver consistent services and standards Australia-wide, and inform, develop and deliver a best evidence and practice national model of elder abuse prevention and advocacy response.
Elder Abuse Resources from the 6th National Elder Abuse Conference
On 22 – 23 July the National Elder Abuse Conference 2019 issued a challenge to its 500 delegates: respect, promote and support the rights of older Australians to autonomy, independence and a life free from abuse and neglect.
The stories told by people who have experienced abuse were moving. The speakers were not afraid to rock the boat to create change. The message that older Australians must have the preeminent voice in the work to progress change on elder abuse came through loud and clear.
The following themes were explored through the calls to action at the Conference:
• Human rights – identifying ways to apply a rights-based lens to all services which support older Australians
• Criminalisation of elder abuse – you want to engage in ongoing discussion about the need for discrete laws which criminalise the abuse of older Australians
• Awareness raising – there is a need for further education of older people, their families and friends, industry and the community about elder abuse, how to identify it and where to get supports
• Prevention – research should be focussed on increasing our understanding about what prevention activities will work and then we need to adopt a collaborative approach towards implementing those activities
• Ageism – joining together to combat ageism in all the ways it exists in Australian society
• Older person led initiatives – older Australians should be empowered to take the lead on addressing elder abuse
Several resources, including podcasts, videos, and presentations were used at the Conference to discuss ways to prevent and deal with the abuse of older people. These can be found on the 6th National Elder Abuse Conference website.