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Mayor urges people to keep an eye on their elderly neighbours for signs of abuse

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By Peter Holmes

Older residents who are worried about becoming a victim of abuse either at home or in aged care are being encouraged to attend a roadshow this month.

A team supported by Orange City Council is taking a warning about how to prevent elder abuse to local towns.

The Older, Wiser, Safer regional roadshow begins on Wednesday in Blayney and concludes in Wattle Flat on March 30 (full details below).

At each session a panel of experts will be available over morning or afternoon tea to help local seniors and their family members or carers better understand these issues.

Relationships NSW says the most common forms of elder abuse are financial abuse and neglect.

The organisation says forms of elder abuse include:

  • Physical abuse – a deliberate act that causes pain, injury or intimidation. This includes all forms of physical assault and restraint.

  • Psychological or emotional abuse – an intentional threat or action that causes fear of violence, isolation, deprivation, humiliation or powerlessness.

  • Sexual abuse – any sexual interaction that occurs without an older person’s consent, or through coercion.

  • Neglect – a carer’s failure to provide basic necessities such as food, shelter or medical care, or preventing someone else from providing them. A common sign of neglect is poor personal hygiene.

  • Social abuse – forced isolation that stops or limits an older person’s contact with friends, family or their community. Social isolation often allows other forms of abuse and abandonment to take place.

  • Financial abuse – the illegal mismanagement or improper use of an older person’s finances. This includes stealing money or possessions, or controlling finances without permission.

Orange mayor Jason Hamling encouraged elderly residents and their carers to attend.

“Because there’s a lot of support available to the elderly, more and more people are able to stay in their homes, living independent and healthy lives,” Hamling said.

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“But that also means older residents need to learn about safeguards to protect themselves from financial scams. All kinds of problems can be avoided if an elderly person has a Power of Attorney authority in place in case they are unable to make decisions for themselves.

“These information sessions will include a number of speakers who can talk about the warning signs of elder abuse to look out for.

“It’s important for the neighbours of an elderly person to be able to notice the signs and offer some support.”

An executive summary of a report into elder abuse by the royal commission into aged care in Australia, released in December 2020, stated elder abuse “is a disgrace and should be a source of national shame”.


It said the abuse of older people in residential care “is far from uncommon”.

In 2019–20, residential aged care services reported 5,718 allegations of assault under the mandatory reporting requirements of the Aged Care Act.

“A study conducted by consultancy firm KPMG for the Australian Department of Health estimated that, in the same year, a further 27,000 to 39,000 alleged assaults occurred that were exempt from mandatory reporting because they were resident-on-resident incidents,” the royal commission report stated.

“In our inquiry, we heard of physical and sexual abuse that occurred at the hands of staff members, and of situations in which residential aged care providers did not protect residents from abuse by other residents.”

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The royal commission found that “Substandard care can occur in both routine areas of care, like food, medication management and skin care, as well as in complex care, such as the management of chronic conditions, dementia or palliation”.

“Substandard care can also take the form of deliberate acts of harm and forms of abuse -including physical and sexual abuse and abuse from inappropriate restrictive practices.”

It stated that “Abuse is an extreme example of substandard care and reaches into the realm of criminal behaviour”.

“Restrictive practices” are described as activities or interventions, either physical or pharmacological, that restrict a person’s free movement or ability to make decisions.

“Where this occurs without clear justification and clinical indication, we consider this to be abuse … Restrictive practices can result in serious physical and psychological harm and, in some cases, death.”

The royal commission stated: “Restrictive practices have been identified as a problem in aged care in Australia for more than 20 years.

"The inappropriate use of unsafe and inhumane restrictive practices in residential aged care has continued, despite multiple reviews and reports highlighting the problem. It must stop now.”

A report by the royal commission into “experimental estimates of the prevalence of elder abuse in Australian aged care facilities” found that the prevalence of elder abuse in Australian residential care to be 39.2 percent.

“This estimate only includes people who reported experiencing emotional abuse, physical abuse and/or neglect,” it stated.

“It does not include financial abuse, social abuse and sexual abuse because the survey did not include appropriate questions to adequately cover these other forms of abuse.”

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It found the “prevalence estimate” for neglect was 30.8 percent.

This included people who reported concerns about how they were helped to shower, eat, toilet, get around, groom and/or use continence aids; concerns about how medication was managed, wounds were looked after, catheters were used and/or pain was managed; concerns about accessing a GP, dentist, mental health services, and/or other allied health services; and/or care staff rarely being able to spend enough time attending to the person’s individual needs.

The prevalence estimate for emotional/psychological abuse was 22.6 percent. This included people who reported feeling forced to be dependent on staff, being treated like a child, forced to wear continence pads, being shouted at by staff, and/or not having their specific care needs thought about or listened to.

The prevalence estimate for physical abuse was five percent. This included people who reported: being restrained, not being allowed out of their bed/chair/room or outside, and/or being hurt or treated roughly by staff.

A 2016 NSW inquiry into elder abuse in NSW found that “the existence of abuse is widely expected to grow with our ageing population”.

“The committee was shocked by the many cases presented to us:

  • a daughter who drained her mother’s bank account of $300,000 via her enduring power of attorney;

  • neighbours who arranged for enduring power of attorney and guardianship of a man who had already lost capacity;

  • a granddaughter who tried to transfer her grandmother’s house into her name for $1 in return for a verbal promise of care;

  • a man demeaned and treated roughly by nursing home staff;

  • a daughter who couldn’t cope with her mother’s dementia and failed to provide for her necessities of life.

“Many of these true stories seemed almost unbelievable; some were quite shocking.”

The local events will be held at:

BLAYNEY Wednesday 2 March at 10.15am

Blayney Shire Community Centre - 41 Church Street, Blayney

COWRA Wednesday 2 March at 2.15pm

Central West Libraries – Cowra Branch, 77 Darling Street, Cowra

PARKES Thursday 10 March at 2.15pm

Parkes Services Club, Sunset Room - 9-17 Short St, Parkes

PEAK HILL Friday 11 March at 10.15am

Peak Hill Ex-Services & Citizens Club, 57/61 Caswell St, Peak Hill

CONDOBOLIN Tuesday 22 March at 2.15pm

Condobolin RSL Club - 20 McDonnell Street, Condobolin

LAKE CARGELLIGO Wednesday 23 March at 10.15am

Lake Cargelligo Bowling Club, Prior St, Lake Cargelligo

BATHURST Wednesday 30 March at 10.15am

Courtyard Room, RSL Club, 114 Rankin Street Bathurst

WATTLE FLAT Wednesday 30 March at 2.15pm

Recreation Hall, Brae Lane, Wattle Flat

In Orange the roadshow program about elder abuse will be included in the Seniors’ Festival to be held at the Orange Function Centre on March 25.

Places are limited. Bookings through Eventbrite or call the Community Services Centre at Orange 6393 8600.

Meanwhile, Orange Credit Union is hosting a free Stay Safe Forum on March 3 at The Hotel Canobolas at 10am.

Learn about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud and scams. RSVP here.


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