More support is needed to protect the rights of older citizens in Australia amidst a growing problem of elder abuse, according to Community Law Australia on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
CLA says it is seeing a growing need to help tackle elder abuse, which can include cases of physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, with financial abuse the most common.
“Any act which causes harm to an older person is considered elder abuse when it is carried out by someone they know and trust such as family or friends,” CLA spokesperson Carolyn Bond said.
“It can be in the form of taking someone’s money, neglect or failure of a carer to provide adequate food, shelter or health care, or forced isolation. Regrettably, because it is most often family members involved, supporting older people to take action is very difficult.
“From the volume of elder abuse cases we’re seeing in our centres, it’s imperative that more funding is provided so that we can establish more specialist services to respond to this highly vulnerable group.
“CLA is calling on governments to increase funding to CLCs to continue to carry out this critical work.
Ms Bond says that there are many cases of elder abuse that would not be dealt with properly if it weren’t for a local CLC.
“An example of this was where an elderly woman was suffering from memory loss and complex health issues. Her daughter moved in as her carer and managed her finances. The daughter moved herself into the house, and re-located her elderly mother to the back bungalow. Despite receving a carer’s payment, she was not providing care and support to her mother.
“The CLC worked with a local health service and the elderly client to address the issues, empowering client to decide what action she wanted taken.
“How many other older people in our communities are taken advantage of in this way?
“We only have a handful of CLCs across Australia dedicated to providing assistance to elderly clients. But we want to do more.
“Within 25 years it is estimated that nearly a quarter of Australians will be over 65 years old. That’s why it’s critical that we look after our ageing population by providing the necessary services to stop these types of abuses happening,” Ms Bond said.
The United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was first observed in 2012 and attempts to shine a light on the problem of physical, emotional and financial abuse of elders.
Community Law Australia is a coalition of community legal centre bodies led by the National Association of Community Legal Centres. There are around 200 community legal centres (CLCs) providing Australians with around half a million free legal services each year – including advice, information and representation.
Community Law Australia recently launched its Five Point Plan to address the legal access crisis in Australia.