A health justice partnership
Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service (OPALS) is a health and justice partnership between Metro South Health and Caxton Legal Centre Inc., bringing together lawyers, social workers and health professionals to achieve proactive early intervention for older patients who are at risk of or experiencing elder abuse.
Health professionals are being trained to identify older patients who are affected by elder abuse. Hospital social workers are being trained to provide specialist supports to these patients. There is a lawyer who specialises in elder law working at the hospital. A community social worker is available for patients post discharge.
OPALS is being piloted at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and in related health services in Metro South Health, and will be expanded to other locations in the following two years.
In Australia, nearly 30% of people initially seek advice in situations of elder abuse from trusted health or welfare professionals, putting health professionals in a unique position to identify and make appropriate referrals of patients to specialist support services. Caxton Legal Centre and Metro South Health together can address the health, social and legal needs of older people and improve their overall wellbeing and safety.
How can OPALS help me?
If you feel that you are being mistreated by someone you trust or your right to make personal, health or financial decisions has been wrongfully taken away from you, then you can ask to speak to the hospital social worker about your concerns.
Your conversation is confidential. The hospital social worker will discuss your options to improve your situation. No action is taken without your consent.
An OPALS lawyer is also available to discuss any legal issues you may have. The OPALS lawyer has particular expertise in elder law including decision making, personal and financial safeguarding, and family agreements. The social worker can, with your consent, refer you to speak to the lawyer. The advice you receive from the lawyer is free and confidential.
After your discharge from the hospital, you can request ongoing assistance through the OPALS community social worker and lawyer.
Who can OPALS help?
OPALS assists older patients of the Princess Alexandra Hospital. If you are 60+ years old or 50+ years old (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients) then you can access the service.
If you are a patient of a related health service of Metro South Health, for example you may be an outpatient of one of their clinics, you can ask one of the health professionals at the clinic to refer you to the OPALS community social worker and lawyer.
After your discharge from the hospital, ongoing legal and social work support is available through the OPALS lawyer and community social worker.
OPALS also conducts training sessions for hospital staff and community health professionals on how to identify elder abuse (‘red flags’ training) and how to make appropriate referrals.
Any hospital staff will be able to refer you to the hospital social worker.
You can contact the OPALS lawyer on 0408 376 117 or (07) 3214 6333.
You can contact the OPALS community social worker on 0427 727 399 or (07) 3214 6333.
The OPALS lawyer and community social worker are available to make home visits.
Acknowledgement of partners
The Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service is funded by the Commonwealth Government, Attorney-General’s Department.
Caxton Legal Centre has partnered with Metro South Health to co-design and co-deliver the Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service in response to the increased demand for specialist services responding to elder abuse and domestic and family violence experienced by an increasingly ageing population in Queensland.