Elder abuse is a critical public health issue that affects millions of older people around the world, causing emotional suffering, poor health, injury and in some cases premature death. The definition of elder abuse includes the physical, psychological and sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of people over 60. Here in Australia, the Federal Government recently established a national Elder Abuse Inquiry in response to a string of high profile media reports and increasing public concern about elder abuse and its victims. Last month, Brisbane-based author and professor of public health Philip Baker lodged a submission with this Inquiry on behalf of Cochrane, highlighting a new review on Interventions for preventing the abuse of the elderly and calling for greater research efforts in this area.
‘The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of intervention programs to reduce or prevent abuse of the elderly in their own home, or in organisational, institutional or community settings,’ Philip explains. ‘So it’s a very timely and relevant review in the context of the Australian Elder Abuse Inquiry. As we highlighted in our Inquiry Submission, evidence on what kinds of approaches work to prevent and reduce elder abuse is scarce and this is something governments, researchers and health organisations need to address.’
‘We do know that elder abuse is worse in situations where carers lack training and have poor attitudes. And while some of the interventions we looked at appeared to improve the knowledge and attitudes of people who interact with the elderly, there wasn’t enough evidence to show an overall reduction of abuse. So it’s critical that more and better research is undertaken to evaluate both existing and new strategies to reduce and prevent elder abuse. We were pleased to present these review findings and recommendations to this important ongoing Inquiry, and hope our findings will contribute to the Commission’s discussions, findings and future policy recommendations in this critical area.’
Words: Shauna Hurley