More Queenslanders to access help for elder abuse through health justice partnership

More older Queenslanders will have access to help for elder abuse through the expansion of Caxton Legal Centre’s health justice partnership with Metro South Health to begin service delivery at Logan Hospital. 

The partnership, known as the Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service (OPALS) brings together lawyers, social workers and health professionals to achieve proactive early intervention for older patients who are at risk of or experiencing elder abuse.    

Older people will often seek advice or information from trusted health or welfare professionals about legal issues. Now when this occurs at Logan Hospital, there is a clear pathway to accessing help as our team is integrated into the hospital’s services,” said Tilé Imo, OPALS senior lawyer. 

This means older people, who may feel shame and distress from issues experienced at home with their family, can be connected with legal help immediately.

“Many older people are unaware of where to obtain legal information or advice, or even that they have legal options,” he said. 

Dr Reeny Jurczyszyn, Director of Social Work at Logan Hospital, believes that OPALS will be a resource for both patients and hospital staff. 

“Health professionals may not be familiar with the indicators of elder abuse, know where to refer a client or how to best respond given privacy constraints. The OPALS team will work with Logan Hospital staff to deliver socio-legal education and secondary consultations with staff on these topics,” she said.  

“There has been an immediate demand from patients for elder abuse services at the commencement of this partnership which I am only expecting to grow.”  

OPALS takes an integrated multidisciplinary approach where social work, health, and legal support are available to support the human rights and autonomy of the older person to make decisions about their safety and future. Assistance can take the form preferred by the older person and can be adapted to the situation as it unfolds. 

The expansion of OPALS within Metro South Health follows a successfufirst year of the project at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and community health.  OPALS is available for referrals and secondary consultations with all Metro South Health during office hours Monday to Friday.  Anna Hutchinson, OPALS lawyer, will be attending Logan Hospital each Friday. 

Elder abuse can includphysical, psychological, social, financial, sexual abuse, and neglect. Caxton Legal Centre also offers the Seniors Legal and Support Service for people concerned about elder abuse in the community.

Contact Caxton on (07) 3214 6333 if you have concerns for yourself or someone you know.