Elder abuse

Understanding issues, frameworks and responses
Research Report No. 35 – February 2016

7. Prevention approaches

As noted in section 3.2, directions in the themes underpinning thinking about prevention have two broad elements, with the first oriented toward changing the values and attitudes among the broader community and among professionals and individuals who interact with elders, and the second oriented toward mitigating the risk factors for elder abuse.

Many of the provisions of the Aged Care Act 1987 (Cth) outlined in section 6.1 are directed at identifying and preventing elder abuse in the aged care context by facilitating the oversight of the quality of aged care. Relevant measures include the Aged Care Principles (e.g., the Quality of Care Principles, the Accountability Principles and the User Rights Principles and Charter of Care Recipients Rights), as well as the establishment of a regulatory system comprising accreditation and aged care standards, non-compliance provisions and the establishment of a more robust Aged Care Complaints Scheme and an Independent Aged Care Commissioner. Broader Commonwealth- and state/territory-based policy frameworks and practice guidelines also involve a preventative, educative function by outlining approaches to identifying and effectively responding to instances of elder abuse. In relation to financial abuse in particular, measures encouraging financial literacy and advocacy for elderly Australians (e.g., ASIC's National Financial Literacy Strategy and MoneySmart program), together with strong regulatory regimes and industry codes of conduct that are aimed at encouraging awareness of elder abuse among both financial institution professionals and clients, are in turn directed at putting safeguards in place to prevent elder financial abuse. State/territory-based laws governing powers of attorney and guardianship also play an important role in the prevention of elder abuse, with legislative protections in place against the abuse of enduring powers of attorney, and the introduction in some jurisdictions of the new role of a supportive attorney, which operates to preserve a principal's decision-making role. Criminal justice responses, including family violence provisions, are also directed at the prevention of elder abuse via intervention/protection order mechanisms.

In terms of prevention approaches more broadly - in the public health sense that has been applied to family violence (e.g., VicHealth, 2007) and other issues, such as smoking, in recent decades - prevention and early intervention approaches are in the early phases locally and internationally. The WHO (2011) has observed that there is limited knowledge on prevention and amelioration approaches, and a number of recent Australian analyses have called for a greater focus in this area (e.g., Clare et al., 2011). One example of a local initiative is a campaign by the Queensland Elder Alder Abuse Prevention Unit, which conducted an elder abuse awareness campaign in 2010 (Sparkes & Jackson, 2011). The campaign was based on the theme: Is it Happening to Someone You Know? It involved posters displayed in shopping centres and cinemas, advertising on television and the supply of announcements for community services slots on radio stations, together with press releases and media interviews. The campaign was targeted at the family and friends of older people and was intended to encourage greater awareness of elder abuse and reports to the Elder Abuse Helpline. An evaluation of the campaign found that notifications of elder abuse to the helpline rose by 64%, with an increase of 6% in notifications from family and friends.