Study highlights need for aged care staff education on elder abuse

Study highlights need for aged care staff education on elder abuse

A lack of common understanding of elder abuse among residential aged care staff is hampering the implementation of effective interventions, according to Monash University research.

The review looked at 19 research studies undertaken between 2000 to 2017 to investigate how residential aged care staff conceptualised and identified elder abuse.

Lead author Dr Harriet Radermacher said staff understanding of elder abuse differed across the studies.

“There was not a lot of consistency with the studies on how people categorised abuse or thought about it or conceptualised it,” Dr Radermacher told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Dr Harriet Radermacher

“More education, training and continual professional development is needed in this area,” said Dr Radermacher, an adjunct lecturer at Monash University (in the department of general practice).

Dr Radermacher said some forms of abuse are well known but there is less awareness among others.

“Physical, sexual and medication abuse are quite well known. But when you’re talking about verbal abuse, psychological abuse and caregiving abuse, it is less clear in terms of understanding that it is a form of abuse and how to address it,” Dr Radermacher said.

Other types of elder abuse present in aged care include neglect, financial, such as control of assets and material, such as damaging a residents’ belongings.

In addition to education, implementing cultural structures and change within the organisation could improve responses to elder abuse, Dr Radermacher said.

“People are in the industry for the right reasons. They want to support and care for residents but often they’re not equipped to do it,” she said.

“Cultural and structural processes in place at the facilities don’t allow abuse to be identified, understood and addressed,” she said.

Providing education to staff on “what abuse is, how to manage it and more importantly, how to prevent it,” will benefit staff and allow residents to feel more respected, she said.

“It’s a highly stressful workplace, so any support in relation to this that would result to happier residents is beneficial to everyone in the long run,” Dr Radermacher said.

Cultural change is also needed at the societal level, she said.

“There’s almost an acceptance that it’s ok just to talk down to older people and speak to them like a child,” Dr Radermacher said.