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Integrated health and legal service helps fight against elder abuse

Queensland seniors will have greater access to help against elder abuse through the expansion of ground breaking partnership between a Brisbane hospital and a renowned community legal centre.

Caxton Legal Centre’s health justice partnership with Metro South Health will begin service delivery at Logan Hospital to bring together lawyers, social workers and health professionals to achieve proactive early intervention for older patients who are at risk of or experiencing elder abuse.

The partnership goes by the name Older Persons Advocacy and Legal Service (OPALS).

“Older people will often seek advice or information from trusted health or welfare professionals about legal issues,’’ OPALS senior lawyer Tilé Imo said.

“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.

“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.

Logan Hospital’s Director of Social Work Dr Reeny Jurczyszyn said OPALS was 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,’’ Dr Jurczyszyn said.

“The OPALS team will work with Logan Hospital staff to deliver socio-legal education and secondary consultations with staff on these topics.

“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 successful first 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. OPALS lawyer Anna Hutchinson will be attending Logan Hospital each Friday.

Elder abuse can include physical, 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.

For more details on OPALS, visit the Caxton Legal Centre website.

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