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Preventing Elder Abuse Tasmania

Preventing Elder Abuse Tasmania (PEAT) is a multidisciplinary, research and advisory team based at the University of Tasmania.


Our work is:

  • Tasmanian focussed within the National context
  • Independent - hence able to independently advise and inform policy
  • Academically rigorous and ethically approved
  • Informed by our community network
  • Supported by access to considerable expertise and stakeholders in health, health-services, law, sociology and policy research locally and nationally
  • Can evaluate the quality and efficacy of service programs
  • Focussed on a systems approach to addressing elder abuse

The PEAT team:

To contact PEAT, you can email any of the individual team members, or use our shared email PEAT@utas.edu.au

Dr Suanne Lawrence
RN, BSc (Hons), MPH, MHA, PhD
Older person health services

Dr Susan Banks
Sociology

Associate Professor Terese Henning
Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI)

Associate Professor Isabelle Bartkowiak-Theron
Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies (TILES)

Key drivers for our work:

Initial research by PEAT found that the Tasmanian legislative and policy framework dealing with elder abuse (EA) had many gaps which has directed our focus to the institutional drivers of responses to EA, how it is understood and communicated. Key to individual and institutional responses to EA is the culture of the relationship between workers and the organisation they work for. Examples of how our research has policy influence are:

  • In 2016, PEAT convened a Symposium on Elder Abuse in Tasmania, supported by State and Federal parliamentarians, and reported to Government.
  • In 2017, PEAT was asked to provide expert evidence to the coronial inquiry into the death of Mrs Macozdi (in 2014). This report informed the coroner’s findings and is now referred to by State Government in current policy discussions.
  • Communication and collaboration nationally and locally with presentations to national conferences, responding to current national inquiries, publication, and training sessions for the Australian Nurses and Midwives Association and COTA Tasmania.

The opinion of Tasmanians

In November 2017, PEAT arranged a Tasmanian Symposium on elder abuse that brought together over 60 representatives from the aged care sector, the legal profession, police, unions, clinicians, policy makers and academic researchers to examine the social, legal, and clinical dimensions of elder abuse and neglect in Tasmania. Based on the input of Symposium attendees in the theme discussions, the PEAT researchers, TLRI, EOT and COTA are calling on the Tasmanian Government and relevant agencies to:

  1. Improve knowledge of elder abuse through research to improve understanding of the incidence, vulnerability factors and enabling culture.
  2. Enhance strategies to address ageism including the development and use of guidelines promoting positive ageing language and images consistent with commitment under the Strong Liveable Communities Tasmanian Active Ageing Plan 2017-2022 to address ageism and combat age-related stereotypes.
  3. Promote community understanding and shared responsibility for addressing elder abuse and neglect through awareness raising campaigns.
  4. Embed a human rights culture within the Tasmanian community through the adoption of a Tasmanian Charter of Human Rights, containing a duty incumbent on all persons and public authorities to act consistently with human rights. The Charter must also contain mechanisms to allow individuals to seek remedy where protected human rights are violated.
  5. Endorse and adopt the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report into Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response including the adoption of state and territory adult safeguarding laws to give adult safeguarding agencies the role of safeguarding and supporting at risk adults.
  6. Establish a transparent, independent and quick State-based complaints mechanism for taking, investigating and addressing elder abuse and neglect, including broad provisions for 3rd parties to make complaints.
  7. Ensure that appropriate independent legal support, including access to mediation and family conferencing, is available to all adults including prior to signing residential aged care and related contracts.
Full Report | Symposium on Elder Abuse and Neglect, Report and Recommendations (15 November 2017) (PDF 628.3 KB)

Research

A COVID-19-era rapid review: using Zoom and Skype for qualitative group research

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, PEAT and other researchers were forced to rewrite research methods to address isolation requirements for our participants. While everyone was familiar with using Zoom or similar as part of their job, the literature supporting the use of video-conferencing for qualitative research was unclear. Taking a ‘rapid review’ approach we searched academic databases to identify strategies to support this work. From the existing literature, we identified five key challenges for researchers to address using video-conferencing modalities such as Zoom and Skype these being rapport, technical issues, planning, privacy and equity. Together with other UTAS researchers, PEAT have published this research in the methods journal, Public Health Research and Practice.

Service-driven approaches to preventing and responding to elder abuse in Tasmania

Tasmania is an ‘ageing’ state, with the highest proportion of people over 65 in Australia. This trend will continue with increasing life-expectancy, and an on-going loss of younger Tasmanians to the mainland for work, coupled with an increasing influx of sea- and tree-changers in older age groups. Tasmania already has a population with significant, known risk factors for elder abuse. These concerns have prompted the State Government to seek to respond comprehensively to the increasing risk of elder abuse, in hand with national reforms already underway. PEAT was funded by the Tasmanian Government through the Department of Communities (DoCT) Community Support Program-Protecting Older Tasmanians: Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy; and the University of Tasmania. The research reported here was produced through collaboration between the research team and staff of participating services. The report was prepared by the University of Tasmania Preventing Elder Abuse Tasmania research team: Dr Suanne Lawrence, Dr Susan Banks, Ms Megwyn Mosenthal, Associate Professor (Adjunct) Terese Henning, Dr Joshua Boland and with advice from Ms Nerilie Gilson (DoCT).

On completion of the workshops in the south and north of the State, the research has made it manifestly clear that service level response to elder abuse is under strain. There are currently no solutions to the problems participants are dealing with. Participants work very hard between themselves to resolve problems, but this is ad hoc and reliant on personal connections and interests. We are aware that the Department of Justice has researched and prepared a report for the Attorney General regarding adult safeguarding legislation and options for establishing an investigatory body for elder abuse in Tasmania.

It is our primary recommendation for the State to establish a complaints investigation body with power to:

  • Investigate
  • Adjudicate
  • Make determinations, and
  • Enforce those determinations.

Invited review of a case of elder abuse - Mrs Janet Mackozdi - on behalf of the Tasmanian Coroner

In 2017, the Preventing Elder Abuse Tasmania (PEAT) research group, were asked by the State Coroner to review and report on findings from the inquest into the death of a 77-year-old woman MM. MM died of hypothermia in July 2010 while sleeping in a converted shipping container at her daughter and son-in-law’s southern Tasmanian property. Five years later her this couple were convicted of MM’s manslaughter. At the subsequent inquest in 2017 (), we heard that MM was in the advanced stages of dementia, was frail and underweight at the time she died due to significant neglect by her family responsible for her care. This case is troubling because MM saw many different services over the three years prior to her death. The obvious question is why any of these services didn’t identify that the couple were not adequately caring for this increasingly frail woman and intervene on her behalf, so she didn’t spend the last moments of her life in a freezing shipping container.

The State Coroner asked PEAT to address key questions to be included in their final report. Given access to the available information surrounding MM’s final years of life prior to the inquest, PEAT found a troubling trail of contacts with services that could potentially have intervened in her decline to death brought about by the actions (or inactions) of her family. Summarised in our report, MM’s increasing dependence on her family starts in late 2007 when she sold her house in Sydney. At this point, MM sees her long-term financial planner who is concerned that MM is confused. The family reassure the planner they will be caring for MM, and that they are all moving to Tasmania. From here until her death in July 2010, there is a trail of interactions with aged care, GPs, pharmacies, allied health, banks and real estate agents (Figure 1). At some points concerns were raised, but the family, especially due to their health-care backgrounds, were able to convince the GPs they visited for example, that they could care for MM.

Responses to Coroner questions PEAT group (19 July 2017) (DOCX 84.4 KB)