elder abuse

It’s what everyone with an elderly parent or relative in aged care fears. The stuff of nightmares. Shocking stories have surfaced of bashings, starvation, neglect, abuse and even death at an aged care home in Bundaberg, Queensland according to leaked documents obtained by The Australian.

The Kepnock Grove home for the elderly, run by the Baptists, has been accused of serious breaches of care by the relatives of residents and former staff and then of trying to cover up the results of an internal investigation which were damning.

“The Australian has obtained key documents, including confid­ential legal advice, and interviewed insiders about standards of care, injuries and several deaths. They say there has been an attempt­ed cover-up since an initial low-key internal probe uncovered shocking cases at the home and suspicious deaths,” writes senior reporter Hedley Thomas.

Is it time we took the issue of Elder Abuse more seriously? Should it be included in the upcoming Royal Commission on Family Violence? Or does it need an inquiry of its own?

The terrible neglect detailed in The Australian includes:

  • A dementia patient who violently assaulted other residents on at least 10 occasions. Staff considered sedating other residents “because they thought if they were medicated they wouldn’t say anything that could set him off”. A woman who was assaulted and choked by a resident who died three days later.
  • Rationing of food – with bread, ice-cream, desserts and cordial off the menu.
  • Verbal abuse of patients.
  • Patients left in their beds in wet and soiled garments and bedclothes for many hours. Some found by relatives to be “caked in faeces”.
  • An elderly woman who had “flesh peeling from the lower part of her body” and was not given urgent medic­al care.
  • A drug addicted staff member who stripped morphine patches from the shoulders of patients in palliative care for her own use.

The CEO of Baptist Community Services (known as Carinity), Jon Campbell, who initially sought an injunction from the Supreme Court to prevent The Australian from publishing the leaked documents, said in a statement he is “deeply sorry” for the standard of care, but rejects a cover-up and “strongly rejects the claim of deaths attributable to bashings”. 

Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, said in a statement this afternoon the allegations were “deeply concerning”.

“Any kind of mistreatment of older Australians in the care of an aged care facility is completely unacceptable. Older Australians who live in residential aged care can sometimes be more vulnerable than others, making any breach of the trust placed in these facilities even more appalling.” Investigations by his department are continuing.

Speaking to The Hoopla today, Hedley Thomas said that in some 30 years of reporting, it was the first time he’d experienced an organisation seeking a Supreme Court injunction to prevent publication of documents. “It fuels concerns that this organisation (Carinity) wanted to conceal from public scrutiny of important facts,” he said.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence is due to begin. Senior Rights, Victoria is pushing for elder abuse in its terms of reference.

“Women and children suffer enormously from family violence, but thousands of older people are suffering as well. Elder abuse must be recognised as a serious family violence issue, and older people should be encouraged to speak up,” said Seniors Rights Victoria‘s Manager, Jenny Blakey. “Many people lack understanding of elder abuse.”

Their hotline received thousands of calls last year – the most common perpetrators were, sadly, adult children. Women made up 72 per cent of callers.

Have you, a family member or someone you know of experienced elder abuse? Is it something you fear for yourself and others?


Elder Abuse organisations in states and territories – contacts:


Senior Rights Victoria. seniorrights.org.au Tel:1300 368 821

Australian Capital Territory
ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS), www.adacas.org.au, Tel. 02 6242 5060

New South Wales
The NSW Helpline and Resource Unit, www.elderabusehelpline.com.au, Tel. 1800 628 221

Elder Abuse Prevention Unit, www.eapu.com.au, Tel. 07 3867 2528

South Australia
Aged Rights Advocacy Service, www.sa.agedrights.asn.au, Tel. 08 8232 5377

Advocacy Tasmania, www.advocacytasmania.org.au/elderabusehelpline.htm, Tel. 1800 441 169

Western Australia
Advocare, www.advocare.org.au, Tel. 08 9479 7566

Northern Territory
No specialised elder abuse service/agency. Contact the NT Police.

Or contact us at The Hoopla for help.

Federally, families, residents and staff are able to bring any concerns to the attention of the Aged Care Complaints Scheme, anonymously if they wish, by calling 1800 550 552.

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