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Aged care royal commission releases elder abuse estimates

New research is adding some depth to the picture of elder abuse in Australia, with a royal commission paper estimating more than a third of Australians living in aged care facilities have faced neglect, emotional abuse or physical abuse.

Around 39.2 per cent of residents have encountered at least one of the three forms of abuse, according to the experimental estimates released late last year by the Office of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The figures were calculated using data from the royal commission’s residential aged care survey, previously conducted by the National Ageing Research Institute.

It included 391 residents or their representative, all of whom were drawn randomly from a representative random sample of 67 aged care facilities.

The most prevalent form of abuse was estimated to be neglect, with the research paper suggesting 30.8 per cent of people face it in aged care facilities. The term covers, among other issues, how residents are helped to shower, eat and toilet, and how concerns about medication and pain are managed.

That was followed by emotional abuse – taking into account issues like being shouted at by staff and treated like a child – at 22.6 per cent, and physical abuse at 5 per cent, covering being restrained, not being allowed outside or out of their chair or bed, and being hurt or treated roughly by staff.

While the survey comprised a number of questionnaires exploring quality of care, general life satisfaction and concerns and complaints, it was not designed to measure the prevalence of elder abuse. Still, with a dearth of knowledge about the extent elder abuse occurs in the sector, the royal commission used responses from the survey that best fit its definition to create its estimates.

The paper did not explore estimated rates of financial, social and sexual abuse as the data didn’t appropriately cover those issues.

The royal commission hoped the research paper would provide a platform for further research into elder abuse prevalence and prevention in Australian aged care facilities.

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