Law reform demand on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

The peak body for older Tasmanians has demanded stronger and specific legislation be introduced to protect the vulnerable from elder abuse.

The call comes after the Australian Law Reform Commission made 43 recommendations for law change to prevent elder abuse, centred on the key issues of physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.

It has suggested there be improved responses to elder abuse in residential aged care with enhanced screening of carers, and greater scrutiny of aged care practices.

It has recommended that an independent body be established to take in complaints of elder abuse and that governments invest in studies to, with hard data, the prevalence of elder abuse nationwide.

Banks have been asked to do all they can to recognise and prevent instances of financial abuse, and national guidelines requested for wills and estates so lawyers identify when a older person is under pressure from relatives or carers.

The demand for more targeted legislation on elder abuse comes as communities marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an international day which draws attention to the abuse and neglect of older people.

Council on the Ageing Tasmania chief executive Sue Leitch said it was unknown how many older people were being bullied and defrauded by their children and family but the Institute of Family Studies suggested the figure was likely 10 per cent.

She said a higher number were experiencing neglect.

“Threatening and defrauding older people is a criminal act but unfortunately it is not covered by any law that would hold the perpetrators to account,” Ms Leitch said.

“Legislation can only work effectively when aligned with a planned and integrated program of social education to support cultural change. 

“We have seen this approach work successfully in Australia, most recently in the long overdue action against family violence and institutional child abuse.

“Sadly, elder abuse is still in the shadows hidden from public scrutiny.”