Bullying and abuse among aged care advocates must stop

After publishing my article Bullying and Abuse among aged care advocates must stop I became a target of abuse.

Heather Mansell Brown claimed the posts in my article were doctored. They were not. In fact these posts were merely a taste of the abuse that Heather and her cabal of disaffected women inflicted on a small community in Southern Queensland. This document contains many abusive posts from Heather and those who support her. Sadly, there are many, many more.

Jane Hiliary Seaholme claimed I lied in the account of the personal abuse she raged against me. This document provides evidence of Jane’s abusive Emails and Tweets verbatim and my responses to her puerile abuse.

Heather and Jane continue their ongoing abuse towards providers, government and advocates with whom they disagree. They have both created a social media echo chamber – Heather on Facebook; Jane on Twitter. These echo chambers, inhabited by a small number of the usual suspects, are toxic places to visit.

Rather than abuse people on social media, it has been suggested that these women could actually help older people by volunteering in an aged care home.

Do We Need Mandated Staffing Ratios Or Staff Transparency In Aged Care?

The title of this year’s Victorian Healthcare Week Great Debate was: Do We Need Mandated Staffing Ratios in Aged Care? Are we better off focusing on the quality outcomes for older Australians rather than mandated staffing ratios?

I was 2nd speaker on the negative side.


Improving Transparency In The Aged Care Sector Will Benefit Everyone

Last week, HelloCare invited me to comment on the requirement in the new Aged Care Quality Standards for open disclosure. I suggested all aged care homes and home care providers should be required to report adverse incidents not only to the older person and their family but also on their websites.

I am pleased both Ian Yates (CEO, COTA) and Darren Mathewson (Acting CEO of ACSA) have contested this idea for improving transparency. I always welcome debate. A public debate about transparency in the aged care sector is long overdue.

This is my response.

We should be talking about aged care during the election campaign

Our democracy depends on the robust contest of policies. Yet so far the federal election campaign has been dominated by personal insults, pork barrelling and heated discussions about preference deals. I’ve hardly heard a whisper from candidates about their party’s aged care policies.

I am standing as a candidate for Reason Australia in my local electorate (Cooper in inner city Melbourne) so I can put aged care in the election spotlight. Reason brings an evidence-based approach to all its policies, including aged care policies.

Aged care needs evidence-based, not opinion-based, policies. It also needs kindness. Rather than listen to the opinions of the usual suspects who are part of the broken system that has failed older Australians, we need new thinking. To quote Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.


Older women may be the last bastion of Victorian traditions

On international women’s day, I have reflected on women living during the Victorian era. In those days, a wife lost her personal identity when she acquired her husband’s name. A wife became her husband’s property, his chattel.

Victorian marriage and property laws stipulated that a married woman did not have a separate legal existence from her husband. A married woman was a dependent, like an underage child or a slave, and could not own property in her own name or control her own money.

The laws changed over a hundred years ago. Thankfully so too did attitudes towards married women. Older women may be the last bastion of Victorian traditions.

Some older women are treated like an underage child after their husband dies. They are encouraged to appoint a financial power of attorney because older women, particularly those who have not been the family’s breadwinner, are assumed to be incapable of managing their own financial affairs. Not only is this patronising but also it disempowers older women.

The ultimate act of disempowerment is when an older woman is declared legally incapable. According to the Office of the Public Advocate, older women are more likely to be declared legally incapable than older men. This may be due to the fact that women live longer than men. It may also suggest that older men are revered while older women are infantilised.

Once an older woman is declared legally incapable, an enduring power of attorney, both financial and medical, is appointed. The financial powers of attorney take complete control of their mother’s financial affairs. The older woman is then transported back to the Victorian era. She loses control of her own money, just like a young child.

Financial powers of attorney are required to act in the older woman’s best interest. If they don’t, it is financial elder abuse.

There is little reliable data on the extent of financial elder abuse. State Trustees Victoria found that women over the age of 80 are most at risk of financial elder abuse. They found that adult sons were the most common perpetrators of financial elder abuse.

Financial elder abuse may begin with the best intentions – with children acting as their mother’s financial power of attorney thereby managing her finances. This can quickly progress to a sense of entitlement, particularly when adult children have mortgages or debts.

In some families, children are not willing to wait for their inheritance until after their mother dies. They assume what was once ‘Mum and Dad’s money’ is now their money, not their mothers’ money. They may even curtail the amount of money their mother spends.

There have been several high-profile trust fund disputes in which sons have sued their mothers. In one case, a former pupil of a private boys school in Sydney sued his mother after the family estate was left to his mother rather than to him. This “old boy” was castigated by the judge for having a “highly developed and unhealthy sense of entitlement“.

Financial elder abuse is currently not a criminal offence in Australia. It is treated as a private issue, like family violence was treated during the Victorian era – before the work feminists did to make it a public issue. For financial elder abuse to become a criminal offence, attitudes towards older people, particularly older women, need to change.