How can you prevent Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse prevention should be everyone's business! A good article and some sound advice from  The Shed Online website:
 
How can you prevent elder abuse?
 
By Gary Ferguson, Community Education Co-ordinator, Seniors Rights Victoria
When I was a boy I remember my grandfather saying sternly "what happens and is said in the family stays in the family and you don't talk about it to anyone outside". I think he wanted to ensure that the 'family secrets' didn't become common knowledge with our friends and neighbours.
 
Often when I'm talking to groups about the barriers to disclosing elder abuse and relate my family story, people nod knowingly. Does this family code sound familiar to you?
 
My Grandfather was a man who endured the 1930s Great Depression and two world wars. His view of what it meant to be a man was shaped by the era in which he lived. He rarely talked about his own concerns. Older men have strong notions of masculinity which have been entrenched over several decades through media, necessity and society. This can make it difficult for them to talk about being mistreated or abused. 
 
In Australia, up to 5% of people over 65 will experience some type of elder abuse. Based on 2011 population data this equates to up to 154,000 older people. As a significant number of older people don't talk about the abuse, we know that the figures are an underestimate. Men comprise around 1 in 4 of those contacting services that specialise in addressing elder abuse. But they're less likely than women to talk about the abuse.
 
In my role as Community Education Co-ordinator with Seniors Rights Victoria, I strive to raise awareness of elder abuse amongst older men stressing to them that they don't have to put up with it and that help is available.
 
Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person by someone they trust such as a family member, close friend or long term neighbour. The abuse can be physical, psychological, financial and/or social. 
 
How can you can prevent elder abuse? Often the simplest ways can be the most effective. You might even be doing some of these now.
  • Stay connected! By being connected with peers and friends either informally or through clubs, you often have the opportunity to talk about concerns with someone you trust.
  • Ensure you protect your interests. A Power of Attorney enables you to choose a person to make decisions on your behalf if you're not able to, due to illness or lack of mobility. Powers of Attorney are different in each State/Territory but usually cover financial matters, lifestyle and medical treatment.
  • Be active! Hobbies and interests give you a stronger sense of independence; choose ones that suit your lifestyle.
Men often see it as their responsibility to be the family provider, even in later years. Services like mine regularly come across situations when an adult son or daughter has taken advantage of this. This is especially the case in financial abuse, which can impact on an older man's lifestyle in later years.
 
So what happens when an older man is being abused by another family member or maybe a close friend of the family? How do you deal with this?
 
Research in England into elder abuse in the early 2000s indicated that men do want to talk about elder abuse. However they need to be asked or provided with a space that lets them do this in a way which is non-judgemental and respects their position.
 
If you think that the actions or behaviours of someone close to you are malicious or abusive, the first step is to talk with someone outside of the situation. Possibly a close neighbour, mate, sibling or health worker will provide a ready ear and support. Talk to a counsellor if it is getting too much for you. But talk about it.
 
Speaking to someone can result in a feeling of relief and create a resolve to end the abuse.
 
Older men often talk about elder abuse only when it reaches a critical stage. One of our clients, a 78 year old father and grandfather, signed a form eight years ago for his adult son. He thought it was to be guarantor for a loan of $10,000 for his son. The son deceived his father. The document was to transfer the title of the father's house to his son. His son used it as a means to borrow a substantial amount of money. When the son defaulted on the loan repayments, the financial institution foreclosed on the father's house to regain their losses. The father contacted us 2 days before he was to be evicted from his family home of 40 years. Think how different the outcome might have been if the father had spoken about the situation earlier.
 
Elder abuse is a growing issue. If you're experiencing even subtle forms of abuse or mistreatment, it's important to talk about it early to someone you trust and to contact a service that is familiar with elder abuse. As a community we have a responsibility to raise awareness of elder abuse to protect the rights of older people. Find out more about elder abuse by checking your local elder abuse service's website listed below.
 
Australian Capital Territory ACT Office for Ageing http://www.dhcs.act.gov.au/wac/ageing
New South Wales The Older Person's Legal Service www.tars.com.au
Queensland Elder Abuse Prevention Unit www.eapu.com.au/
South Australia Aged Rights Advocacy Service www.sa.agedrights.asn.au/
Victoria Seniors Rights Victoria www.seniorsrights.org.au 
Western Australia Advocare   www.advocare.org.au/
Northern Territory No specialised elder abuse service/agency. Contact the N.T. Police
 
Gary Ferguson has been the Community Education Co-ordinator with Seniors Rights Victoria since it was established in 2008. If you are a Victorian senior and would like to receive a free Legal Topics for Older People 2013 Diary please telephone 1300 135 090 and leave your name and address. Diaries will be posted in December 2012.

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