Jan 25, 2023

Reports of serious incidents and elder abuse are on the rise

Reports of serious incidents and elder abuse are on the rise

Reports of elder abuse in residential aged care have increased with almost 40,000 serious incidents reported to the aged care watchdog during the 2021-22 financial year.

The most common incidents related to the unreasonable use of force on residents, while stealing/financial coercion by a staff member, neglect and unlawful sexual contact also featured.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) data released by the Government’s Productivity Commission is the first of its kind following the introduction of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) in April 2021.

In total, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received 37,833 notifications from aged care providers under the scheme.

The Productivity Commission stated that “high or increasing rates might reflect more effective incident reporting mechanisms and organisational cultural change” rather than a rise in elder abuse.

Chair of the Productivity Commission, Michael Brennan, said the ability to highlight the new data is an important step in ensuring the Government delivers effective aged care services.

“Understanding the quality and safety of the services that support some of the most vulnerable members of our community is an important part of ensuring that the significant investments governments make in these services are effective,” said Mr Brennan.

“This type of data helps improve transparency and the accountability of governments to the communities they serve, and we will continue to look for ways to make more performance data available to the community across service delivery areas.”

The Commission also acknowledged that serious incident reports may not reflect the true number of instances of harm as multiple reports are often made for one incident, while there are allegations of incidents and situations where incidents occurred but an injury was avoided.

As there is no SIRS data available for comparison prior to 2021, the number of reported incidents sets the benchmark for future data, and incident rates will be monitored to identify emerging trends.

Older people receiving home care services will also be included in future reports after SIRS was expanded into home and community settings last December.

The number of reported cases does reflect an increase in older people seeking assistance and counsel for elder abuse, including financial abuse.

Legal Aid New South Wales (NSW) saw a 20% jump in self-referrals by older Australians in the community during 2021-22, with almost $1.9 million in clients’ funds recovered.

Senior Solicitor at the Elder Abuse Service (EAS), Mary Lovelock, said instances of financial abuse are not limited to aged care as family members often take advantage of their ageing parents or grandparents.

Ms Lovelock said many older clients fall into financial ruin after providing a family member with a significant amount of money in the hope they will receive a high level of care.

“We have had several clients come to us with this issue who are on the verge of homelessness,” said Ms Lovelock 

“It can cause significant financial and mental stress for already vulnerable people.”

Ms Lovelock also identified the improper use of Powers of Attorney and fraud as recurring instances of financial abuse.

Elsewhere, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) last year in October revealed a 17% increase in the number of calls it received from older people and their families looking for assistance. 

Ms Lovelock’s comments follow dramatic events from earlier this month when a Queensland aged care worker was the first to be banned from the industry after she was arrested and charged with 17 offences, including 16 counts of fraud.

She allegedly stole thousands from elderly aged care residents, and on several occasions used a client’s credit card online.

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  1. Any incident of unreasonable force is unacceptable, however your story reads as if all of these incidents are perpetrated by staff against residents. In my experience, almost all are other residents using a measure of force against another resident, usually due to dementia-related behaviours. These have to be reported. Whilst an aged care organisation must do everything they possibly can to avoid these resident behaviours leading to harm, without using any chemical, physical or environmental restraints prohibited by the Aged Care authorities, this is a difficult outcome to achieve. Maybe Hellocare could look into this complexity instead of alarming consumers that aged care staff are to blame.

  2. The young today are the old of the future -obviously! Yet the dietary organization of society takes little account of the need for a whole-life healthy diet. Eating habits are formed early and will be hard to change subsequently. EG Cereals for breakfast with little nutrition and sugar laden. Boosts the profits of mega food firms. Why not oatmeal with fruit? Cut animal fat and eat legumes/vegetables/fresh fruit. We see this on government sites but not promoted on TV ads where they rely on ad money from food companies.
    Mega food corps set the population’s diets and they rely on sugar and fat to establish brand taste – and healthy long-term health is not driving their formulations.
    I’m a nonagenarian. I eat a small, simple diet and keep fit and healthy. I started wholemeal and legumes and fruit at 20. No meat but a little oily fish. A simple and cheap diet with some > 70% dark chocolate as a treat and cocoa for drinks. Married with 3 teen-age sons ( plus 6 older children.) A wife half my age.
    You don’t have to live the Hollywood version of happy family. Many women are not feminist. So, keep fit and bring up kids to look after themselves. Ask yourself why you need them anyway. You can have a comfortable, adventurous life being an aunt or uncle or have no truck with kids.

  3. Serious incidences. all very well reporting, however the data is of poor quality if the following is unknown:

    Who reports to ACQSC ( please note ACQSC Is not a watchdog or an independent complaints commission )

    Who gets to decide whether incidents are serious e.g is it the care recipients and their family member ( note in such cases treated as feedback and comment and not a complaint). Or by the provider who may deem incidences as not serious .

    Re reports stating number of serious incidents all individual incidents should be listed together with the organisation in which they occurred and what investigation and outcomes of same were undertaken. they should ALL. So much paper work is generated by desk clerks from such government set ups such as ACQSC mainly containing copious weasel words, and not addressing the issues and recommendations of the Royal commission into Aged care. Look at the speed with which an important system such as a star rating has been addressed no foundations or structure to be at all useful or meaningful .

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