A new education campaign is urging older Australians from a range of culturally diverse backgrounds to safeguard themselves against elder abuse by organising their wills, enduring powers of attorney and other important legal documents.
Launching on this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Have You Thought About Later Life? campaign has been produced by the Australian Human Rights Commission and forms part of the Commission’s suite of educational resources for preventing elder abuse.
Elder abuse is when harm is done to an older person by someone they know and trust. Elder abuse can take many forms including neglect, financial exploitation, physical violence, sexual abuse and psychological abuse. According to the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, one in six older Australians have experienced elder abuse but only one third of victims seek help.
Legal documents –such as wills, enduring powers of attorney and advance care directives – can help older people safeguard their rights and protect their choices for the future in the event their health status affects their capacity or ability to communicate effectively.
However, many older people don’t have these documents. This means their wishes are often not understood or implemented, potentially creating confusion and conflict among family members and friends. In the worst case, it can even lead to elder abuse.
Many Australians find it difficult to think or talk about later life. For older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, additional barriers to later life planning include lack of awareness as well as confusion due to different approaches in their home country.
To address this issue, the Have You Thought About Later Life? campaign provides a range of relevant educational resources in English, Mandarin, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese and Italian. The campaign is being promoted through community-specific media and by influencers within each community.
Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO: “Elder abuse has serious and often devastating effects on the health, wellbeing, dignity and autonomy of older Australians. However it manifests and regardless of the reasons, elder abuse has no place in our community.
“Future planning empowers older people to have choice and control over their senior years and reduce the risk of elder abuse. By formalising their wishes in documents such as wills, enduring powers of attorney and advance care directives, older Australians can have peace of mind about the future and help their loved ones understand their wishes and how best to support them.
“However, it is vital that older people understand their rights, and that those they appoint as decision-makers understand their responsibilities to act in the older person’s best interests. These documents should always reflect their wishes and not the wishes of those around them.
“Through this campaign, we’re encouraging older people to speak to someone they trust or seek professional advice to plan ahead and get on with enjoying their lives by knowing their future is more secure”. .”
The Have You Thought About Later Life? campaign will be promoted by the Commission and relevant community media and partners for the next four weeks. To access the resources and for more information about the campaign please visit: www.humanrights.gov.au/planning-ahead
If you experience, witness or suspect elder abuse, you can call the National Elder Abuse phone line on 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) for free confidential information, support and referrals.
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