By Maria Berry
Our family was privileged to attend the premiere launch of ‘The Target’, a movie by Giovanna Mercuri about bullying. The movie is based on true stories of bullying and the serious long term impacts on those who are victims.
This movie made me reflect on bullying within the aged care sector. As someone who has worked for 30 years with older people both professionally and in community roles, I can confirm that bullying is rife within the aged care industry.
I have experienced bullying among staff in some aged care organisations. This type of bullying has such a negative impact on staff morale. I have also witnessed older people being disrespected, not valued and bullied into decisions and choices that are not necessarily their own.
A more recent form of bullying has occurred by those who have given themselves the title ‘aged care advocates’. These people advocate against elder abuse while they abuse staff, aged care providers and other advocates, including myself. When I was hurting and traumatised, these people attacked me.
My advice to anyone who becomes a victim of this group’s bullying on social media is ‘ignore, delete and block’. If you read comments that are disrespectful, aggressive and nasty, remove yourself immediately. Don’t get caught up in this negativity.
Rather than focus on those who cause mayhem on social media, I propose we focus on so many examples of good work and kindness happening with aged care advocacy work.
At last years 5th National Elder Abuse Conference, I made a pledge during my plenary talk about my “lived experience of elder abuse”. I pledged to let go of the pain, frustration and anger from hurt and to commit to bringing about change. My aim is to ensure grassroots consumer voices are heard at the highest level. I work with others who are trying to achieve positive changes in aged care.
There are so, so many more people working hard to ensure older people are treated with kindness and respect. Keep the front door open for the good work and the positive and respectful people. These are the change makers of the future.