Apr 18, 2019

“Bullying is rife in aged care”


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.

  • Dr Catherine Barrett at Celebrate Ageing launched Embolden in 2018, Australia’s first National festival to challenge ageism, bring respect to older people, celebrate ageing and build age friendly communities. Catherine was a Human Rights Medal Finalist.
  • Lauren Todorovic consistently puts the older person first, whilst working in co-design with operators to deliver the best innovation the sector has to offer.
  • Professor Catherine Crock is the founder of Gathering of Kindness, a movement to bring kindness back into healthcare and stop bullying. We need this movement to flow to all aged care services within our communities, including local councils.
  • Amy Madison from string words ‘story telling’ from older people and staff within aged care services to educate all with value and respect for older people.
  • Dr Kathleen Brasher leader of the Age Friendly Communities Ovens and Murray Alliance Group. Kathleen is a member of the World Health Organisation working globally.
  • Dr Sarah Russell advocacy, support and research work has shown a genuine commitment to create positive change and help others.
  • Brett Partington award winner of the Australian Pride Medal and the founder of Dementia Down Under a support network for carers and people with dementia.
  • All the health Consumer Representatives who volunteer and work tirelessly across a whole range of areas including 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.

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  1. I have recently experienced the above as a volunteer.I was so upset I promptly resigned..I am also 80yrs of age and there was no respect for my age either..volunteers are just that..volunteers…we give up our time to help others and do expect to be treated with respect.

  2. Disgusting!…what has gone wrong with this world…I hear your words clearly… I am truly saddened by people who do this to vulnerable older people and prey on their weaknesses …we must try and change all areas of elder abuse whether physical mental or financial…. please see my petition..http://chng.it/bdTct5XvTL

  3. Why do you encourage People to Report Elder Abuse when in fact all it does is lead innocent victims to the TRIBUNALS and the Victim often becomes a Ward of the State with a Public Guardian and Administrator stepping in?

    People have taken this ADVICE only to find the abuse is NOT stopped and their loved ones institutionalised.

    Tell people the truth.

    1. Sheldon. You are absolutely correct in what you say. Guardianship in this country is one of the most draconian systems and organisations which is absolutely not fit for purpose yet our government will not do anything about it. Rather, they encourage it.

      Bullying happens in all walks of life and in any industry. Which simply means there is and always has been good and bad in the human race. Since that will never change, what we need are effective and legal safeguards to protect society’s most vulnerable and their families. Victims need a voice which is heard, respected and afforded legal remedies when transgressions have occurred. Without that mechanism, there will be no change in the level or type of abuse that is inflicted upon society’s most vulnerable, their families and carers.

      I do not know the history of the author of the above article so my final comment is a general one only. And that is, when families, carers and their advocates react in less than a calm manner, it is usually because of frustration, anger and deep concern for the person they love. That reaction is also because no one really listens to what they have to say or makes the necessary changes to assist the vulnerable person and address their concerns. Lies, platitudes, intimidation, fear etc. some of the responses that a carer and a vulnerable person has to endure.

      It is all very well and fine to have a multitude of players, as indicated in the above article, but when a vulnerable person needs urgent help, who really helps them – certainly no govt. organisation, ngo or otherwise, no police officer, no community legal service or anyone who has the authority to put a stop to it. That to me, is the most terrifying and soul destroying aspect of the aged care system at large.

      As Sheldon above has said – TELL THE TRUTH!!!


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