Home | COVID-19 | Increased risk of abuse due to COVID-19: landmark report

Increased risk of abuse due to COVID-19: landmark report

Aged care residents faced an increased risk of abuse, delays in clinical assessments and forced admission into care during COVID-19, a new landmark report has detailed.

The Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) released the first public insight into the experiences of people living in aged care during the years 2020-21.

Of the 8,826 advocacy cases that were recorded 2,344 involved elder abuse and neglect.

"Common abuse scenarios during the COVID-19 outbreaks included family members moving into the older person’s home without their consent and financially abusing and neglecting them," the report read.

“Advocates also observed cases of financial abuse in circumstances where older people relied on others to purchase essential items for them.

“The misuse of finances in these types of scenarios saw some older people enter financial hardship with unexpected debts to pay.”

Forced admission into residential aged care was another disturbing trend reported to be on the rise.

Family members with enduring powers of attorney or guardianship orders would often inform an older person that they would go into care for a short stay, and then permanently admit them without their permission.

One particularly confronting case involved an older woman who was placed into care after being hospitalised with a UTI.

“When the client met with the advocate, she told the story of how she had arrived at the facility with no clothes, no personal items and no keys to her home,” the report read.

“The client had asked her daughter to allow her to go home and collect various possessions that she needed, but the answer was 'no, you will not go back to the house as it will be sold'.”

Facilities have also continued to block visitors after lockdowns were lifted, leaving residents more susceptible to social isolation, according to the paper.

Many residents said that their facility would not allow them to leave the grounds unless there was a medical reason, and were barred from having visitors inside of their rooms.

"Once restrictions lifted, many visiting family members expressed serious concerns about the visible deterioration and decline in their loved one," it read.

"These issues often related to restricted access to social supports, basic clinical care and allied health services during the COVID-19 crisis response phase."

OPAN CEO Craig Gear said that these experiences highlight key concerns unearthed by the royal commission.

“It is important to acknowledge that while the transformation of the aged care system has begun, it is not yet fixed, and older people are still enduring confronting experiences,” he said.

“We look forward to working closely with the Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and aged care providers to address these ongoing concerns and ensure the voice of older people is heard and respected.”

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