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Building resilience

Danijela Hlis – OPAN National Older Persons Reference Group member

Many older people are caught between 2 worlds, according to dementia advocate and OPAN National Older Persons Reference Group member Danijela Hlis.  

‘One is the world of the family, and if we go against them, if we complain, expose what they are doing to us financially, for example, they may no longer visit us or help in any way,’ she says.  

‘The other world is that of government. The way some older people see it, the government has been good enough to give us home care or residential care when we lose capacity to self-care. Therefore, we must accept what there is, we should be grateful.  

‘The more dependent a person is on family or government, the less likely they are to speak up because of the possible consequences. And the Aged Care Royal Commission has proven how dramatic some consequences can be.’ 

Self-advocacy is one way older people can protect themselves from discrimination and neglect, Ms Hlis says. But to do that, they may need support – either from professional advocates or from their peers.  

‘Behind every successful paralympic medalist is a strong support system. We elders and seniors need to grow our resilience and build support systems.  

Many older people remain silent 

‘Having lived in a retirement village for 10 years among people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, and worked in nursing homes, I see how many chose to remain silent when hurt or exploited.’ 

Enlisting the services of an aged care advocate or a person with lived experience of the system can be a good place to start.  

‘The first time you stand up and say “this is not right”, it’s like learning how to ride a bike. You might need somebody by your side. But next time, not only will you be able to help yourself, you will be taking your neighbour through the process step-by-step.  

‘That’s how we can share our courage and spread resilience.’  

OPAN’s Self-advocacy toolkit equips you with the tools and resources you need to speak up for better aged care.