Last 8-9 December 2016, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Observatory for Sociopolitical Developments in Europe organised an expert meeting on “Elder abuse in the home care of people living with dementia”. AGE was invited to join the discussions.
This meeting aimed to exchange evidence and research findings as well as practices from both grassroots and institutional levels. The discussions had a special focus on ongoing actions in Germany and included the participation of experts from Austria, Switzerland, Scotland and France.
Participants agreed that elder abuse is a key challenge for the future of the ageing Europe. Evidence is missing and underreporting is a real issue, but data available as well as the perceptions of care professionals and researchers alike reveal that elder abuse is widely spread across Europe.
All participants agreed that tackling elder abuse, and especially whenever it takes place at home, is challenging. Experts reminded that this is an area where many ‘grey zones’ exist: abusers are often not aware that they are abusing, and even when they are, they often suffer from their own behaviour. This suggests that elder abuse is to a great extent the result of a lack of awareness of the need to respect the dignity of older persons in need of care and how to do so. The overburden of informal carers and health and social care professionals is also a driver of abuse and neglect; financial pressures on care systems are putting professionals under strain, which results in an increase of cases of neglect and abuse and the impossibility to deliver quality, personalised and dignified care.
During a presentation, Borja Arrue, AGE’s Project and Policy Officer in charge of long-term care and elder abuse, explained that AGE’s actions at European level have stressed the importance of prevention. The European Charter of the Rights and responsibilities of older people in need of care and assistance – inspired in the German charter – and the WeDO European Quality Framework for long-term care services, both enumerate the principles regarding the rights and wellbeing of older persons and explain how carers can better respect them in daily practice. Mr Arrue explained that the underlying idea is that becoming aware of those rights and the need to preserve the dignity of older people can make a change and contribute to prevent abuse.
Both the Charter and the WeDO Quality Framework remain the most important advocacy tools for AGE in the field of the dignity of older persons. The AGE Toolkit on the Dignity and Wellbeing of Older Persons in need of care builds on both instruments to contribute to policymaking and practice in the field of long-term care that are respectful of the dignity of older persons and can prevent elder abuse. Borja Arrue announced that one of AGE’s objectives in 2017 is to explore ways to reactivate the WeDO partnership for a wider dissemination and implementation of the European Charter and WeDO Quality Framework.
This expert meeting was a timely event and AGE expressed its satisfaction to see such initiatives taking place. We would hereby like to thank the organisers for involving AGE.
In 2017, we will organise a workshop on the relevance of the 2012 European Victims’ Rights Directive for victims of elder abuse. This will be an opportunity to explore what legal systems can and cannot do to tackle elder abuse, innovative approaches for the mediation between victims and ‘abusers’, and to remind the preventative message of our previous work.
For more information on AGE’s work on long-term care and elder abuse, please contact Borja Arrue, borja.arrue@age-platform-eu