Abuse of Older
Adults &
Implications for
Mediation
Assoc. Professor Dale
Bagshaw, PhD
Adjunct, School of Psychology,
Social Work & Social Policy,
University of South Australia
6th World Summit on Mediation with Age
Related Issues, UniSA, Adelaide 2013.
Copyright: Associate Prof Dale Bagshaw, 2013.
1
Our 2007 UniSA research
Conducted research and wrote the State Plan for
the SA Government’s Office for the Ageing:
 Our Actions for the Prevention of Abuse of
Older South Australians



Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw: Manager
Dr Sarah Wendt
Dr Lana Zannettino
http://www.sapo.org.au/pub/pub11143.html
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Australian Research CouncilLinkage grant, 2011
Preventing the
financial abuse of
older people by a
family member:
Designing and
evaluating an older
person-centred
model of family
mediation.
7/10/2015
Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Australian Research Council Linkage
Grant Team




Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw (UniSA): Manager
Dr Sarah Wendt (UniSA)
Dr Lana Zannettino (Flinders University)
Dr Valerie Adams (UniSA Research Associate)
in partnership with


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SA Dept for Families & Communities (Disability, Ageing and
Carers Branch),
Relationships Australia SA,
Office of the Public Advocate,
Alzheimer’s Australia SA
Guardianship Board and
supported by the Aged Rights Advocacy Service.
7/10/2015
Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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The importance of language
We used the phrase
‘abuse of older adults’ not
‘elder abuse’
out of respect for our
Indigenous Elders.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Who are the older adults?
Images and concepts of ageing are
changing.
 Some of my peers (war babies) say
that 60 is now the new
‘middle-age’
 The baby boomers will
make a difference

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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes
Maes (1656).
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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What age determines when one is ‘old’?
Varies from 45-65 depending on the researcher,
organisation or service
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – starts at
45, which reflects the lower life expectancy of
Indigenous adults.
 Commonwealth Age pension – 65+ for males,
60-65 for females, depending on when they
were born
 World Health Organisation – 60+
 For our research we used 65+
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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We need a common understanding of
what constitutes abuse of an older
person

Social and cultural (rural, ethnic,
professional) constructions of ‘ageing’,
‘gender’ and ‘abuse’ influence how the
community, older people and service
providers understand and respond to
abuse and abusive relationships.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Definitions and types of abuse
The most commonly used definition of
abuse of older people in Australia is:
Any act occurring within a relationship
where there is an implication of trust,
which results in harm to the older
person. Abuse can be physical, sexual,
financial, psychological, social and/or
neglect.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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In 2007, service providers were asked to
respond to this definition in our national online
survey
The vast majority supported the need for a
broader understanding of abuse and for the
definition to include:
 imbalance of power and control (80%) (central
to definitions of domestic and family violence).
 the gendered nature of abuse of older people
(86%)
 abuse of an older person’s rights (86%)
 cultural abuse (86%)
 spiritual abuse (85%)
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Other additions to the definition from service
providers in 2007 survey included
abuse of an older
person’s pets (85%)
and
 abuse can also
involve a negligent
act or a failure to act,
as in cases of neglect
(73%).

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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Abuse is more than physical

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It is likely that many members of the
community may not have heard the term
‘elder abuse’ or may only believe that
behaviour is abusive if it is physical.
Non-physical forms of abuse are often
subtle and hard to detect.
The older person may be subjected to
several different kinds of abuse at the
same time, to a lesser or stronger degree.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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‘Mistreatment’ is a term sometimes
used instead of abuse

It can involve an act of commission
(abuse) or omission (neglect) which can
be
 intentional, wilful, deliberate or
malicious, or
 unintentional, benign, passive or
reckless.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Types of abuse
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Physical abuse can include being
pushed, hit, sexually assaulted,
burned or physically restrained
Psychological abuse can include
humiliation, insults, threats or being
treated like a child.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Neglect
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passive neglect: being left alone,
isolated, or forgotten
active neglect: withholding of items
that are necessary for daily living, such
as food and medicine, or placing an
older adult in isolated or sub-standard
care.
Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Types of abuse (continued)


Medical abuse can include the
inappropriate use of restraints or the
withholding or careless administration of
drugs, failure to treat an illness, etc
Social and environmental abuse can
include a failure to provide necessary
human services and involuntary social
isolation
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Financial abuse
making improper use of an older adult’s
property or money without his or her
knowledge or permission and can include
 forgery
 stealing
 forced changes to a will
 involuntary transfer of money or property to
another person
 withholding funds from the older person and the

failure to repay loans.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Financial abuse
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Can also include the misappropriation of
enduring powers when a trusted person (usually
a family member) is legally appointed with
enduring powers to manage the financial affairs
of the older person.
With the ageing population and the increasing
complexity associated with financial
management, this type of abuse is likely to
increase.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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In our 2007 research
We found that the abuse of older people
 is an under-researched and hidden
problem
 occurs across the spectrum of our society
and
 is often unrecognised, unreported, and
hard to detect.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Prevalence
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Australian and overseas studies estimate
that between 3 and 5% of older people
aged 65 years and over and living at home
suffer from various forms of abuse or
neglect (Kurrle 2004, p.809).
These figures vary with the methods and
definitions used.
Most victims are women
(Rabiner, O’Keefe & Brown, 2004).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Prevalence in Australia

The Australian Institute of Criminology ‘4.6% of older people are victims of
physical, sexual or financial abuse,
perpetrated by family members and those
in a duty of care relationship’
(Kinnear & Graycar 1999, p.1).
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Dementia

There is a strong link between the abuse
of older people and dementia.

Dementia is rapidly increasing in Australia,
specifically in the older age groups.

A 2011 report estimated that the the
number of Australians with dementia over
60 years of age will triple from 2011 to
2050 (from 266,574 to 942,624) (Deloitte
Access Economics, 2011).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Prevalence of types of abuse
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Financial abuse is emerging as a
significant form of abuse
(Office of Seniors Victoria, 2005 & 2012)
Researchers have found that psychological
and financial abuse—non-physical forms of
abuse—are the most likely forms of abuse
to be reported by people 65 and over
(Schofield et al 2002: 25).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Financial abuse of older people
by relatives

Research indicates that the people most likely to
commit financial abuse are the older person’s
relatives, in particular their adult son or
daughter
(Brill, 1999; Cripps, 2001; Boldy, Webb, Horner, Davey, & Kingley, 2002;
Faye & Sellick, 2003; Johnson 1997; Cavanagh 2003).

The Office of the Public Advocate in Western
Australia found that, during 1995-1998, 10% of
applications alleged financial abuse, with
relatives most often the alleged perpetrators.
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Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
Bagshaw, 2013.
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Financial abuse from relatives

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Another 2004 study – 80-90% of abusers
of older people in Australia were close
family members. (Kurrle 2004, p.809).
In addition, adult children or other family
members are most likely to provide the
assistance required by the disabled or
dependent elderly person. (Kinstle, Hodell and
Golding, 2008)
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Gender and abuse
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The 2001 SA Aged Rights Advocacy Service
study found financial abuse in one third of 100
cases over a period of 2 years - the majority of
victims were women aged over 75 years (James &
Graycar, 2000; Cripps, 2001).
Other studies have found that abuse of older
people within the family is still largely the abuse
of older women by older and younger men
Older women are particularly at risk of financial
abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse
(e.g. see Penhale 1999; Boldy et al. 2002; Faye & Selleck 2003;
Nerenberg 2008).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Gender and abuse
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The 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics
research - one in four women who have
experienced an incident of physical
violence is aged 45 years and older
Supported by other Australian research
(e.g. Morgan Disney & Associates 2000).

However, the gendered nature of the
abuse of older people is still relatively
invisible in Australia
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Domestic Violence and Older Women
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The domestic violence sector has tended to
focus on younger women and their
dependent children.
Abuse of older adults is highly likely to be
‘spouse abuse grown old’ or continuing
domestic violence
(see Nerenberg 2008; Leisey, Kupstas & Cooper, 2009;
Brandl, 2000).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Older women’s experiences may be
different to those of older men
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Tend to live longer
More likely to be financially abused after
their partner dies (Brozowski & Hall 2004)
More likely to be abused by a broader range
of family members than men
(Livermore, Bunt & Biscan 2001).

Less likely to have access to superannuation
and, therefore, more likely to rely on the
Aged Pension
(Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia 2011).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Financial abuse of older Aboriginal
Australians

Financial abuse is the most common
form of reported abuse experienced
by older Australian Aboriginal people
(Office of the Public Advocate, 2005).


Partly due to colonisation,
dispossession and oppression
Often called ‘humbugging’ in the NT
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social
Justice Commissioner…. Mick Gooda
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… says a culture of bullying among Indigenous
communities is being fed by harsh Native Title
laws and feelings of dispossession.
He describes lateral violence…..which occurs
when people who are victims of a situation of
dominance, turn on each other instead of
confronting the system that oppresses them - a
major problem in Indigenous communities.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Culturally and linguistically diverse
(CaLD) older adults are at risk of abuse
because of
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poor English skills
social isolation
dependency on family members
cross-generational factors which result in
differing expectations of care and support
fear of being shamed by and excluded
from their communities
(Office of the Public Advocate in Western Australia, 2006)
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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New and emerging populations
face additional challenges in re-settlement
For example:
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family unemployment
poverty
the changed roles and rights of older people
(particularly older women)
lack of family support and intervention
social isolation, and
inter-generational conflicts
(Bonar & Roberts 2006).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Our ARC project used a range of research
methods to gather data
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Research approved by UniSA’s Human Research
Ethics Committee
Extensive review of the literature
National online survey of CEOs organisations
servicing older people and of family mediation
agencies
National online survey of service providers in those
organisations
2-day phone-in with older people and their relatives
National on-line survey of older people and their
relatives
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Total number of survey responses
CEOs
 Service providers
 Relatives
 Older people
TOTAL:
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228 responses
214 responses
69 responses
45 responses
556 responses
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Causal and risk factors

CEOs and service providers were asked to
check the factors which contributed to the
financial abuse of older people (multiple
responses were possible) and to add other
factors if they wished.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Risk factors for the financial abuse of older
people by their relatives
CEOs
(n=164)
Service
providers
(n=160)
Total
(n=324)
1
Family member having a strong sense of
entitlement to older person’s property/possessions
128
135
263
2
3
Family member with a drug or alcohol problem
Older person dependent on a family member for
care
Older person with diminished capacity, e.g.
dementia, depression, mental illness
128
126
127
129
255
255
115
131
246
122
110
109
117
231
227
110
115
225
111
108
219
104
107
211
94
99
193
98
91
189
4
5
6
Family member with a gambling problem
Older person feeling frightened of a family
member
7 Older person lacking awareness of his/her rights
and entitlements
8 Family member who has a history of using
violence/abuse
9 Older person lacking awareness of financial or
other services
10 Older person who has felt coerced into granting
Power of Attorney to a family member
11 Family member who is mentally ill
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Risk factors for the financial abuse of older
people by their relatives
CEOs
Service
(n=164) providers
(n=160)
Total
(n=324)
12 Family member who is poor or unemployed
94
95
189
13 Cultural attitudes to ageing and to older people
90
98
188
14 Families caring for older people having limited or
no access to support networks or services
15 Older person living with a disability
16 Older person having limited or no access to their
money, housing or other resources
17 Older person who has been a victim of
violence/abuse from a family member
18 Cultural beliefs and customs in relation to older
people’s finances and/or property
19 Reluctance of professionals to intervene in family
matters
20 Older person having limited or no access to formal
support services
21 Poor communication between members of an older
person’s family
22 Older person having limited or no access to
informal support networks
23 Older people with limited useCopyright:
of the Associate
EnglishProf Dale
7/10/2015
Bagshaw, 2013.
language
86
86
172
81
76
88
93
169
169
82
83
165
81
84
165
78
75
153
72
80
152
62
86
148
68
72
140
61
69
130
40
Causes and risk factors – CEOs & service providers
24 Older people from Indigenous communities
61
54
115
25 Service providers lacking awareness of the issue
53
60
113
26 Inadequate legislation in relation to financial abuse
of older people
27 Older people from culturally and linguistically
diverse communities
28 Older people living in rural or remote areas
29 Inadequate provision of services for older people
54
54
108
51
48
99
49
45
45
48
94
93
30 Older person who has abused his/her children in
the past
31 Older person sharing a farm or business with a
family member
32 Poor communication/collaboration between
agencies
33 Poor communication/collaboration between
professionals
34 Family members living a long way from the older
person and/or each other
35 Family member who has particular religious or
Copyright: Associate Prof Dale
spiritual
beliefs
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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53
90
37
48
85
38
42
80
37
35
72
37
29
66
19
19
38
41
Preventative strategies
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Respondents were asked to rank 12
strategies that may enhance the
prevention of financial abuse of older
people by a family member, in order of
importance
Responses were received from 132 CEOs
& 123 service providers = total 255
responses.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Strategies to prevent the financial abuse of older
CEOs
people
(n=132)
Service
providers
(n=123)
Total
(n=255)
61
171
113
46
159
112
40
152
110
38
148
Acknowledge, support & uphold the rights of older
people
Raise the status of older people in Australian
communities with acknowledgement & support for their
rights
Provide information/education to older people and their
families
Raise family & community awareness of financial abuse
of older people
Increase education & training of relevant professionals
110
114
30
144
6
Increase resources/funding for preventative services to
vulnerable older people and their families
112
30
142
7
Increase accessibility of culturally appropriate services
to older people at risk of abuse
109
32
141
8
More family services that directly address the issue of
prevention and early intervention
Increase accessibility of culturally appropriate services
to families with older members
110
27
137
109
20
129
Change legislation and policies
Improve inter-disciplinary and inter-agency
collaboration
More research of ways to prevent the financial abuse of
older people b y a family member
106
106
22
21
128
127
103
15
118
1
2
3
4
5
9
10
11
12
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Barriers to older adults reporting abuse.
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diminished cognitive capacity
mental or physical disability
poor or restricted mobility
lack of awareness of what constitutes
abuse
lack of knowledge of their rights or
resources
social isolation or fear of alienation
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Barriers to older adults reporting abuse
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need to preserve a family relationship
dependency on others in the family
stigma and shame associated with abuse
literacy and language barriers
religious, generational and cultural barriers
fear of reprisal from the perpetrator and a
perceived or actual lack of options or access to
services.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Barriers to reporting for older
Indigenous Australians


Negative, historical experiences of
interventions which led to separation and
loss for many people.
Older Indigenous people mostly want to
stay in their families and communities and
fear removal if they say anything about
the abuse.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Barriers to reporting for victims from
CaLD backgrounds
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

Lack of knowledge of the law and services
Reliance on family members and their
communities for support
Communication and language difficulties
(Bagshaw, Wendt & Zannettino 2007; Bonar & Roberts
2006).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Complex nature of abuse

Domestic violence research has shown
that all forms of abuse are often
interconnected and are part of a complex,
shifting kaleidoscope or mosaic of abuse,
often with the misuse or abuse of power
and control at the centre (Bagshaw 2003).
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Approaches to prevention

Abuse of older people is a public
issue requiring a community response
and in serious cases a criminal justice
response.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Prevention of abuse

Specific education and resources needed
for legal, health care and social service
providers (eg doctors, carers, household
help, police, clergy) to assist them to

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identify abuse,
establish or adhere to appropriate protocols,
screen for abuse,
respond effectively, and
make appropriate referrals.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Approaches to prevention
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Raising awareness of the problem is the
first step towards reducing it
Public education will help combat ageist
beliefs.
Need to establish or strengthen informal
forms of social support for older people to
maintain their independence and quality of
life
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Approaches to prevention


Participatory models hold the most
potential to address the ageist context in
which abuse occurs - allow older people to
own responses instead of relying on
professional expertise.
Interagency collaboration is essential as
the abuse of older people is a legal,
medical, and mental health issue as well
as a social phenomenon.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Second stage of the ARC-Linkage research


Relationships
Australia (Adelaide
and Berri offices),
the SA Office of the
Public Advocate and
Mark Braes (Mt
Gambier) offered a
free service to older
people and their
families for this trial.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Aim of the mediation trial

To design, pilot & evaluate a specialised
older-person-centred model of family
mediation which focuses on the best
interests & safety of older adults, directly
or indirectly includes their voices in
decision-making and builds resilient,
supportive and protective family
relationships.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Our research indicated that family
mediation can be beneficial …



when an older person wishes to involve
family members in decisions or plans
about their finances and assets, and/or
when family members believe that an
older person is vulnerable to, or is
experiencing neglect, exploitation or
abuse, and/or
where family conflict involves an older
person’s finances or assets.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Our national survey of older adults &
their families for the ARC project

Older people and their families were asked
to identify the potential advantages and
disadvantages of organising family
mediation early in the ageing process to
address an older adult’s concerns about
the management of their finances,
property or other assets now or in the
future
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Potential advantages of family mediation?

61 responses were grouped under four
main themes:
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
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enhancing the rights and wishes of older
people
opening and facilitating communication
between family members and between family
members and older people
enhancing the accountability and
responsibility of family members &
reducing family conflict.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Potential disadvantages of family mediation?
Of 57 respondents, 12 said there were no
disadvantages. Three themes emerged from
the other responses:
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

it may be hard to get families to commit to the
process or to see the value in prevention
family members could misuse the financial and
other information provided in the mediation
the older person may feel uncomfortable
discussing financial matters with family
members.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Potential clients for our pilot?
Any older person and family members who wished
to have difficult conversations and/or make plans to
protect the older person’s finances and assets.
Primary prevention
 We hypothesised that family mediation
may be more useful where financial abuse
had not yet occurred or where financial
exploitation by a family member has been
unintentional, benign, passive or reckless .
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Secondary prevention

In some cases, where there has been
intentional, wilful, deliberate or malicious
financial exploitation or abuse or a family
history of abuse, plans could be put in
place by the older person and/or nonabusive family members to safeguard the
older person and his/her assets in the
future.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Ethical considerations
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UniSA’s Human Research Ethics Committee.
Participation voluntary and confidential
Support persons and advocates included if
needed.
Potential participants first seen separately
Screening tool developed to identify violence or
abuse
Mediator’s focus: ensuring that the voices of
older people were heard, directly or indirectly,
and their safety, rights and best interests were
upheld.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Post-research phase - findings from
focus groups with service providers and
older adults

What are the advantages and
disadvantages of offering facilitated family
meetings (family mediation) as a potential
strategy for prevention or early
intervention where older adults are being,
or are at risk of being, financially exploited
by a family member?
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Potential advantages (SPs)
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Opens communication
Brings the issues into focus
Can educate older people and their families
about the nature of abuse
Can bring financial abuse into the open where
it can be better understood - some people
might be unaware they are abusing
(unintentionally) and so will stop that
behaviour.
Can strengthen supportive networks including workers, families and others
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Potential advantages (SPs)
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Older people can become more aware of their
rights and options
Provides an access point for supportive family
members to be involved
May be a catalyst to bring family members
together – may encourage the involvement of
estranged family members who could be very
helpful to the older person
Can empower older people and redistribute
power where there is a power imbalance
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Potential advantages (SPs)

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Can reduce destructive family conflict and
assist families to problem-solve in a
constructive way
May create an improvement even if it doesn’t
solve all the problems
Major decisions made in haste could be
prevented
May avert a crisis
Protective mechanisms can be put in place
where the older person is vulnerable or at risk

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Potential advantages (SPs)
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The abusers can learn about their behaviour
and check their interpretations or ignorance.
Meetings act as a warning light to the family –
that abuse is serious and that society doesn’t
tolerate it and is supporting the rights of the
older person
Mediators are usually seen as independent
and impartial
Early family mediation may circumvent the
escalation of legal recourse and prevent the
case appearing at the Guardianship Board
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Older adults’ (OAs) added
comments on the potential
advantages of family mediation


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
Having the whole family involved
Increases the family’s awareness of available
support services
Defuses domination by one family member
Provides a forum to discuss end-of-life decisions
and other related matters
Untangles confusion and identifies the real issues
of concern
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Potential advantages (OAs)

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

Gives the older person a voice in an open forum
Prevents future conflict
Clears the air on issues that may be impacting
on people’s behaviour
Can organise the older adult’s and their family’s
future
Can help to raise awareness of the particular
needs of the older person
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Potential advantages (OAs)



Families can develop a code of conduct that
families can refer to e.g rules for communication,
such as each person has a turn to speak, roles,
respecting rights etc
Families can learn how others handle matters or
get an idea about what community expects older
people to be treated.
Can be used as a way for families to talk
confidentially - doesn’t go on a formal record.
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Special conditions (SPs)

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The family meetings need to occur in a
safe place suitable for the older person.
Flexible processes need to be offered – eg
shuttle mediation (older person seen
separately and the mediator goes
between, use of advocates etc).
Mediators should always assume the older
person has capacity unless assessed by an
expert as not having capacity.
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Special conditions (OAs)
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Preferably occurs when the older person is
independent and has full cognitive ability
Need more than one meeting to get results
Useful if it is a free service and welladvertised in different languages
If use mediation with patriarchal families, the
mediator needs be in control and establish
and enforce firm norms.
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Why so few clients in our trial?

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Language issues: SPs stated that the
terms ‘abuse’ and ‘mediation’ may have
turned people off or been misunderstood.
May have been more useful to use the
terms such as ‘exploitation’ and
‘facilitated meetings’ instead
Other possible reasons were outlined in
the following focus group comments about
the potential disadvantages of mediation
.
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Potential disadvantages of
mediation (service providers views)
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May be difficult where the older adult has
mental health issues, mild cognitive
impairment or dementia
Can escalate the abuse
May have negative repercussions and increase
the older adult’s isolation if the perpetrator
withdraws the client from the service. Really
need safety measures and checks beyond the
meeting.
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Potential disadvantages (SPs)
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May pressure family members to have a
relationship with each other that they do not
want, which may worsen the family dynamics
and precipitate a crisis
May have an adverse impact on the older
adult’s health if bringing the matter to
mediation is too stressful
Difficult to organise if the older adult has
impaired mobility – need to provide homebased service option
Everyone has to agree to come. Big families
may be unableCopyright:
to get
all members to agree
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Potential disadvantages (SPs)
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Inter-state and overseas family members may
be left out or may disrupt proceedings
unnecessarily - they may not have any insight
into the thoughts, feelings and wishes of the
older person
Someone with a Power of Attorney could
complicate matters.
Need well educated, skilled and trained
facilitators/mediators– these people are rare,
in particular in rural/remote areas. Also may
need two mediators in some situation.
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Potential disadvantages (SPs)


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

Other necessary resources may not be available
– e.g. a neutral and safe space, access to legal
advice, financial advisors etc
May be difficult to substantiate allegations in
some cases
Potential repercussions for the organisation if
the alleged abuse is not substantiated
There may be different levels of cultural
awareness, different cultural perceptions,
different levels of education in relation to what
constitutes financial abuse.
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Potential disadvantages of mediation
(Older adult’s views)

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Where abuse already exists and there is
significant power imbalance - mediation may
not be appropriate, or may need special
safeguards (e.g. two mediators, separate
meetings, an advocate or support person,
firm ground rules)
There may be ramifications for the older
persons, especially if they are vulnerable –
need to assist the victims first and ensure
they are safe
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Potential disadvantages (OAs)

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
An agreement may not be reached
Can escalate conflict
If the older person has been abused, s/he may
not feel comfortable communicating with the
abusers
The concept of mediation may be foreign or
scary to some older people and may connote
that a problem exists
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Potential disadvantages (OAs)

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Older people may be reluctant to have their
personal and private business enter into
‘government’ arenas.
Older people don’t necessarily want formality
and things recorded, they may prefer informal
and friendly meetings.
Getting an abuser to come to the meeting may
be difficult
Family pressure not to meet, especially when
the abusers have a lot of power – they won’t
give up their power to create equality or admit
wrong.
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Potential disadvantages (OAs)



Families have long-standing norms, roles, beliefs
that are hard to change e.g. son is the heir,
sense of entitlement, rewarding those who are
carers, parents right to decide – so
interpretation of ‘best interests’ can be
contested in families and amongst siblings.
Difficult to get family together if there is
physical distance.
Often children don’t know about parents’
finances fully – often something that is not
spoken about.
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Potential disadvantages (OAs)


For CaLD older people, the term ‘mediation’
implies that there are already issues – ‘family
meetings’ may be a more appealing term
A professional interpreter needs skills in
mediation as the translation of cultural meanings
are just as important as the translation of
language.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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So, can mediation be a useful
preventative approach?
Elder mediation can be a useful preventative
approach in some cases, however
 there needs to be more information
available to the community, service
providers and older people about what it
involves and its benefits, and
 an increase in the number of professionals
who are specially educated and trained in
elder mediation.
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
Using a strengths-oriented perspective,
mediators can promote positive, respectful
language and communication, empower
older people and emphasise older people’s
contributions and worth to society
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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…




No two cases of abuse of older people are
alike
A variety of assessment tools and
preventative approaches are needed to
meet the needs of each situation
The safety and empowerment of the older
adult should be given the highest priority
Need to develop models of prevention that
address the ageist and gendered contexts
in which abuse occurs
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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Where there is abuse is also essential to
 provide a coordinated, multiple service
system response to the victim, the
perpetrator and the social network
surrounding the victim.
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Bagshaw, 2013.
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For more information about the project
Dale’s email address:
[email protected]
Dale’s University Homepage:
http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/ho
mepage.asp?name=dale.bagshaw
Elder Abuse and Family Mediation Project website:
http://w3.unisa.edu.au/hawkeinstitute/r
esearch/elder-mediation/default.asp
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