11.1     This chapter considers two discrete issues: the role of health professionals in identifying and responding to elder abuse; and the potential interaction between elder abuse and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

11.2     Health professionals play an important role in identifying and responding to elder abuse. As frontline service providers, they have regular contact with older people. However, health professionals may often only have a small window of opportunity to assist. This may be due to an older person’s reluctance to discuss the abuse or neglect they are suffering, or due to limited opportunities to seek assistance. It is therefore important that health professionals are able to take advantage of any opportunity to assist, for example by relying on multidisciplinary approaches and integrated models of care to provide coordinated support and assistance for an older person suffering abuse or neglect. Health-justice partnerships in particular may have great potential in responding to elder abuse.

11.3     There are barriers that may limit a health professional’s ability to assist in identifying and responding to elder abuse. These include difficulty detecting elder abuse, limited knowledge of and access to appropriate referral pathways, and concerns that responding to elder abuse might result in a breach of privacy laws. These barriers may be addressed in a number of ways, including, for example, by:

  • providing training that focuses on issues such as better recognition of elder abuse and the interaction between the role of health professionals and privacy laws;

  • developing improved referral pathways; and

  • adopting multidisciplinary responses to elder abuse.

11.4     While the ALRC does not make specific recommendations in this chapter, the discussion that follows should inform the development of initiatives relating to training and referral pathways under the National Plan as they apply to health professionals.

11.5     As the NDIS continues to roll out, concerns about abuse or substandard care under the NDIS, as well as the potential for quality and safeguarding mechanisms to assist in combating elder abuse, may increase. However, the ALRC considers that it is too early to determine whether the scheme is an avenue for elder abuse or test whether there are effective safeguards against elder abuse in place. Therefore, the ALRC does not make any recommendations in relation the NDIS at this time.