Resolution Not Always Confrontation

Resolution not always Confrontation. Alternative pathways are needed to respond to Elder Abuse

  • By Graeme Westaway
  • 15 June 2017

‘We don’t want to go to court; we don’t want them to be imprisoned; we want them to understand what they have done; we want some recompense; we want the family to kept together” this is what Better Place Australia (formerly FMC) hears every day from its Elder Abuse clients. Better Place Australia (BPA) CEO Serge Sardo says “This is why we are advocating that alternative pathways are needed to respond to the hidden shame of Elder Abuse.” The newly released Law Reform Commission report on Elder Abuse will be a great lightning rod for change in reporting and recognition of Elder Abuse however more will be needed.

Data shows that financial abuse and psychological or emotional abuse together are the most common forms of abuse reported by older Victorians. 1 In many cases, older people who suffer abuse at the hands of their family members would prefer not to have authorities involved and Better Place Australia’s Respecting Elders supported mediation and counselling service can be a way to deal with this complicated issue.

Sardo said that Better Place Australia had developed the Respecting Elders program in response to community need. Our experience found that often an older person may not identify what is happening to them as elder abuse. “Older people may want to cover up the signs of conflict due to fear of what may happen to them or to ‘protect’ their family. Respecting Elders offers a non-threatening way for older people to resolve conflict in their lives,” said Mr Sardo.

Respecting Elders is philanthropically funded and ultimately aims to reinstate an older person’s self-respect and allow them to live their own life, defined by their wishes. The older person may find themselves in a dilemma as to what to do about the abuse. A non-adversarial response resonates with many. It is an alternative pathway that is perceived as less relationship risky and emotional taxing than a legal pathway.

How it works

The BPA Respecting Elders service encourages any older person who feels they are being controlled and isolated to break the silence. A phone call to a BPA counsellor will start a confidential process of consultation and support.

Respecting Elders is funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and will be delivered by BPA in partnership with Seniors Rights Victoria and Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC). The BPA and ECLC partnership brings together a significant network of agencies and referral pathways for older people. This will enable a reduction in social isolation for the individual and through the greater awareness, reduce the incidences of abuse.

For more information or interviews please contact Graeme Westaway, Executive Manager Communications (0438 318 311)

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