The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) has used the day for elder abuse awareness to remind service providers of their legal obligation to protect their clients from harm.
World elder abuse awareness day was observed on Wednesday 15 June.
The commissioner has stressed it should be the first priority of providers to keep older clients safe from abuse.
Providers were responsible for doing ‘everything possible’ to prevent abuse and neglect of older people, the commissioner said, including acting swiftly to respond to reported incidents.
“Any incidence of abuse or neglect in aged care is unacceptable. The community expects older Australians to be cared for respectfully, safely and with dignity,” Janet Anderson said in a statement.
A new scheme known as SIRS came into force last April and requires Australian aged care providers to manage and mitigate risks associated with providing care for older people.
The scheme also creates mandatory reporting requirements for eight categories of incidents, which must be disclosed to the commission. It includes reports for alleged, suspected and witnessed events, and sits alongside the requirement to contact the police should a potential crime have occurred.
“The commission reviews all incident notifications within 24 hours of receipt and takes action where it is determined that there is an ongoing risk of harm to residents and/or the aged care provider has not dealt with the incident appropriately,” the ACQSC said.
“Notifying the commission of serious incidents does not supplant other provider obligations, including the requirement for providers to report to police any incidents that are suspected to be criminal offences.”
The aim of the scheme is to mandate a systematic approach to harm prevention. The end goal is that providers will implement protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures for trained staff to understand and use.
The commission has published additional resources for aged care providers to lift understanding of elder abuse and capability to respond to potential risks.
A ‘Ready to Listen’ campaign to help build the skills and capacity of residential aged care providers was also recently launched by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN). The focus of that training is about adequate preventative measures and responses to sexual assault of older people living in aged care.
“Training is also required for staff in how to respond to suspicions, allegations and witnessed accounts of sexual abuse of aged care consumers,” Anderson said.
“Focusing attention on these provider responsibilities will help build the capability of the aged care sector to better understand, prevent and address known or suspected instances of sexual abuse.”