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Action on Elder Abuse: A New South Wales Pilot Project on the Role of Legal and Health Practitioners in Elder Abuse Screening, Response and Prevention


Nola M Ries and Elise Mansfield

This article reports on a pilot project that involved legal and health practitioners (n=17) in an intervention that aimed to improve detection of and response to elder abuse. Interviews and focus groups elicited practitioners’ experiences and their views on the use of structured screening processes to identify abuse or risk situations. Participants reported they mostly encounter financial exploitation and psychological abuse, perpetrated by adult children against older parents. No practitioners reported the use of an elder-abuse-specific screening tool, but perceived the benefits of screening to enable earlier identification of problems. Barriers to screening included practitioners’ concerns about communication strategies, professional role boundaries, and inadequate response options. Participants supported a ‘triage’ approach, with screening questions and responses scaled to the immediacy and severity of the problem. Respect for the autonomy of older people was emphasised, along with professionals’ role in providing advice and resources to empower their older clients.

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(2020) 43(2) UNSWLJ 738: