Elder abuse screening tools for clinicians

Community health workers, carers and clinicians have taken part in focus groups run by NARI to find which existing elder abuse screening tools are the most effective for working with older people.

Funded by the State Trustees of Victoria, the project is filling a major gap as elder abuse often goes unrecognised by health professionals because they lack the tools to detect it and/or the knowledge of what to do when an older person discloses abuse.

Elder abuse has been recognised as a form of family violence, and the recent Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence identified the need for consistent screening tools that can be used in association with the services available

Dr Bianca Brijnath, Director of Social Gerontology, said the focus groups had uncovered a range of issues associated with existing screening tools.

“Our aim now is to create a new tool which include clear directions on what next steps a person should take when elder abuse is detected, depending on the type and severity of abuse.”

NARI’s research has shown that without an easy-to-use and effective screening tool, accompanied by clear guidelines of what to do when elder abuse is suspected, community health workers, health professionals and carers may feel unwilling to ask questions about elder abuse.

The Victorian Government publication, With Respect to Age (2009) outlines strategies and procedures already established to address elder abuse, providing examples of questions to ask the older person at risk and appropriate responses.

“While this is a useful framework, what is lacking is the recommendation of a clear and concise screening tool to be used by health workers, professionals and carers. This is where our work will make a difference,” Dr Brijnath said.