Elder abuse - the responsibilities of workers and professionals
This will largely depend on the service role of the organisation in relation to older people. Not all workers will be responsible for responding to suspected, alleged or reported cases of elder abuse. However, it is important for workers to be aware of information that can help determine the next steps that should be taken if there are concerns about safety and wellbeing.
Workers have a responsibility to uphold the rights of a person and prevent carelessness, neglect or harm to another person, in a professional relationship between people where there exists a responsibility or obligation of care.
Older people have the right to self-determination, autonomy and to have their decisions respected and implemented. Older people are presumed to have capacity to make decisions, unless determined otherwise. Their decisions must be respected and upheld. A person is still entitled, even with a diagnosis of mental incapacity, to have their wishes taken into consideration.
Consent is when someone accepts or agrees to something that somebody else proposes. For consent to be valid, the consenting person should:
have decision-making capacity specific to the decision being made
be able to make decisions based on their wishes and choices
understand the implications and effects of their actions
not be coerced into making the decision.
The law requires that a person has decision-making capacity (legal capacity) when making certain decisions in their life, in order for them to be considered valid.
Impaired decision-making capacity, consent and undue influence
Freedom of choice relates to decisions about life choices including accommodation, lifestyle, health care, and management of property and finances. It also extends to accepting or refusing help that is offered, and whether or not a person chooses to take action related to concerns of elder abuse.
Undue influence or coercion is when in situations of power imbalances, an individual who is stronger or more powerful manipulates the other individual to do something they would not have done otherwise. This may include isolation, creating dependency, or inducing fear and distrust of others.
While workers are not responsible for assessing undue influence, decision-making capacity, or evidence of financial abuse, they may have a responsibility to seek advice if there is a need to determine whether the person’s decision-making capacity is impaired. They may suspect:
coercion to sign a legal document
transaction, or its consequences, that is not fully understood
decisions which are not made freely due to deception or undue influence.
The University of Adelaide, supported by Office for Ageing Well and in collaboration with the Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) and older South Australians, has developed an Elder Abuse Simulation e-Guide to help increase awareness of elder abuse in the community.
A valuable resource for front-line staff, the e-Guide includes information on how to recognise the often subtle signs of elder abuse; how to approach this with sensitivity with someone who is potentially experiencing elder abuse; and how to respond.
a video portraying an ideal style of interaction with the older person in an elder abuse scenario;
a video for debriefing that describes how to recognise and respond to a person who may be experiencing elder abuse;
interactive activities to engage participants; and
evaluation tools to assess effectiveness of the simulation learning exercise.
Please take our short survey about the Stop Elder Abuse web pages.
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