Aged care homes ‘need improvement to prevent elder abuse’

Date: Jun 23, 2017

Aged care homes must make a number of improvements to prevent elder abuse, according to a new report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).

In fact, 14 of the ALRC’s 43 recommendations to minimise elder abuse targeted nursing homes, suggesting the country has a long way to go before the elderly receive appropriate care as their health declines.

The study highlighted various types of elder abuse, including:

Financial: stealing money and/or abusing power of attorney arrangements;
Emotional and psychological: insulting, name-calling, bullying and harassment;
Physical: pushing, shoving and rough handling;
Sexual: rape and other unwanted sexual interactions; and
Neglect: failing to provide adequate care, shelter, food and medical care.

Aged care homes under scrutiny

The report was released soon after research from Monash University showed that preventable deaths in Australian nursing homes increased 400 per cent between 2000 and 2013.

There were 3,300 deaths due to choking, falls, suicide, homicide and other incidents during this 13-year period. Some deaths may have been the result of medical negligence, which means residents suffered a breach in the duty of care that the aged care home owed them.

Professor Joseph Ibrahim of the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine, and Lyndal Bugeja, associate professor at Monash University, highlighted these problems in an article for The Conversation.

“We know older people are at greater risk of abuse and neglect than the general population because of their physical frailty, cognitive impairment, multiple illnesses, social isolation and need for assistance with personal or domestic tasks,” they explained.

“Yet, there is currently little information about the overall number and severity of incidents of elder abuse and neglect in Australia.”

Key ALRC recommendations

Among the ALRC’s recommendations for aged care homes were:

  • Enhancing elder abuse responses for care home residents;
  • Better employment screening for care home employees; and
  • Providing greater oversight regarding restrictive practices in aged care.

Specifically, the ALRC advised that new legislation should deliver a serious incident response initiative that would require aged care homes to inform an independent body when elder abuse occurs.

“The fact that such a report is needed is, in part, a reflection of Australia’s complex, fragmented arrangement of health, aged care and legal systems,” wrote Professor Ibrahim and Associate Professor Bugeja.

Do you believe a loved one has suffered elder abuse that could constitute medical negligence in Australia? Please contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.