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How health partnerships can uncover abuse

How health partnerships can uncover abuse

By Yvonne Lipianin

Disclosure Health Practice & Procedure 


An admission to hospital can be an important window of opportunity for an older person to disclose abuse, as it may be the only time they are separated from the perpetrator. Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or omission, occurring within a relationship of trust, causing harm or distress to an older person. It can include physical, financial, psychological, and sexual abuse and neglect, and perpetrators are usually family members, especially adult children. Responding to elder abuse generally demands a multi-disciplinary approach, often necessitating involvement of health, housing, counselling and financial services. Critically, legal intervention can also be an effective tool to address abuse, however numerous barriers exist to older people disclosing abuse and seeking legal help, including fear of retribution, social isolation, and failure to understand one’s rights. This fact has demanded a rethink of how to better connect legal services with those most vulnerable to abuse. Health justice partnerships (HJP) are an effective way of tackling the barriers to addressing elder abuse. A HJP involves integrating a lawyer into a hospital or other health setting to deliver free legal assistance to vulnerable people unlikely to access such help elsewhere. HJPs can be tailored to engage particular groups in the community that have proven difficult to reach through more traditional methods of legal service delivery. One such group the HJP model has shown to be effective in reaching is people experiencing elder abuse.

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