Elder Abuse Royal Commission

August10, 2016

The Australian Prime Minister has today announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Royal Commission will primarily look at the quality of care provided in Residential and Home Aged Care to senior Australians, but also include Young Australians with disabilities living in Residential Aged Care settings. According to the press, this inquiry has been prompted in part by the findings of abuse and neglect in a nursing home run by the State Government of South Australia, Oakden aged care facility.

Sadly, elder abuse is not something new but has been with us for centuries. As life expectancy increases, the potential for elder abuse also increases and according to the World Health Organisation, about 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse. The actual rates of physical abuse are difficult to determine due to the very limited published data. A meta-analysis of elder abuse in the community indicates a rate of 2.6%. There is no information as to the extent of abuse within aged care facilities and hospitals. Elder abuse is not dissimilar to child abuse. Despite its existence for centuries, it was only about 50 years ago that child abuse became topical and a subject for research. Developmentally, the concept of elder abuse is at least 50 years behind child abuse and, not surprisingly, has been poorly investigated. Like child abuse, there are difficulties with the diagnosis complicated by concept, communication, the aging process and mimickers of injury.

This inquiry may help uncover some of this information and encourage the necessary further research into elder abuse.

John Gall, President