The Hon Nick Goiran MLC, member of the Western Australian Parliament, tabled and spoke to a motion calling for more to be done to stop the growing problem of Elder Abuse last Thursday the 19th of September. Nick spoke at the 2010 Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International Symposium in Vancouver Ca.
That the Legislative Council -
a) acknowledges the growing problem of elder abuse in Western Australia;
b) commends the work of non-government and government programs to prevent elder abuse; and
c) calls on the whole community to work together to eliminate elder abuse in all its forms.
Goiran prefaced his speech by identifying the two aspects of the human condition that make elder abuse so insidious:
...I am conscious of two aspects of the human condition that we must bear in mind in confronting the problem of elder abuse. The first is that there are times and circumstances that make members of the human family more vulnerable to abuse and therefore more in need of protection from the whole community.
This obviously applies to children, both born and unborn, who are in the nature of things dependent on the adults into whose care they are entrusted for the necessities of life. This also applies, in my view, to those who have profound disabilities, whether intellectual or physical. Advancing age can bring its own set of vulnerabilities including physical frailty, mental confusion and dementia, loss of support networks such as through the death of a spouse, and social isolation.
The second aspect of the human condition to which I refer is the reality that some human beings will take advantage of the vulnerabilities of others for their own ends including for power, financial gain and sexual gratification. In all too many cases the perpetrator will be someone who has a duty of care based on kinship or professional responsibility to their victim.
Goiran sighted a number of studies on elder abuse and provdied the parliament with a summary of the statistics:
According to the 2011 study by the Crime Research Centre at the University Western Australia, about one in 20 older people will suffer elder abuse of one form or another. I quote briefly from page 3 of that study â€”Based on a range of international prevalence and incidence estimates for elder abuse victimisation, an average prevalence rate for WA was calculated to be 4.6% (ranging between 3.1% and 6.0%). This translates to an estimate of approximately 12,500 victims of some form of elder abuse in WA for 2011.
In view of the estimates of the increase in the ageing population, if the prevalence of elder abuse is not reduced, by 2031 there could be around 24 000 victims of elder abuse annually.
I turn to the impacts of elder abuse. In a 2008 editorial in age and ageing, Christine McAlpine set out theimpacts of elder abuse, which include â€”â€¦ emotional distress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, depression, attempts at suicide and selfharm, social isolation, financial loss and negative impacts on physical health.
Page 35 of the Crime Research Centre report I previously referred to observes, in relation to this matter ofimpacts, that â€”
Being a victim of elder abuse may have a devastating effect on a person's lifestyle and quality of life.For example, suffering financial abuse may mean that a person who was previously comfortably off may now be impoverished. The experience of elder abuse may also have an effect on the older person's health and well-being due to the emotions experienced as a result of the betrayal by loved ones.â€¦Even when elder abuse does not result in imminent physical harm, research has shown it has a detrimental effect on mortality and causes severe emotional distress...
A number of excellent contributions followed from members on both sides of the chamber. The Hon Kate Doust mentioned a personal example where she and her family are carefully assisting their father in arranging his affairs and ensuring his proper care. The Hon Col Holt also spoke about the example of the positive culture that Australia's indigenous peoples have towards their elders:
Most Indigenous communities of the world really value their elders. We can go to any Indigenous race of people in any part of the world and find elders with life experience, who have built up many years of wise counsel, are cherished the most in their communities. The lesson in that for me is that, while they might get more senior, our elders can continue to contribute a lot to our communities and our decision-making processes and our government.
Echoing the problems of abuse and euthanasia, The Hon Peter Katsambanis questioned the voluntary nature of elders supporting their children:
As we know, most elderly people want their family, children and grandchildren to live well. Unfortunately, a few people take advantage of that and really emotionally pry away at these older people. Although it seems that the decision to provide financial assistance to these people, often at the expense of the elderly person, is voluntary, in actual fact, when we scratch the surface we find that it is not a voluntary decision at all. It is a form of strong emotional abuse that eventually ends up as financial abuse as well. It is wrong but it is very difficult to work out ways to stop it.
Although agreeing with the motion, the final contribution from The Hon Darren West seemed more than a little confusing as he argued for the frail and elderly to be able to 'voluntarily decide when it is time for their life to end.
Whilst the understanding of the issue of elder abuse amongst Nick Goiran's peers is to be commended, it would seem that there's still some way to go.
You can read the full transcript HERE: