A free service supporting families and the elderly with difficult and challenging situations has arrived in the hinterland, and Reverend Liena Hoffman believes it will be of great value to the community.

by Angela Reedman-Polinski

Talking about home care with family is not something we think about often; it’s uncomfortable and a little confronting. But when the time comes to act, you need support, advice, and answers. 

The hinterland now has a free facilitator service, The Conversation Hub, to deal with this, and Reverend Liena Hoffman from Blackall Range Uniting Church shares the story of this new community project.

“The Conversation Hub is a new proactive, collaborative project between Speak Up Now and Blackall Range Uniting Church. It offers a free 90 minute facilitated meeting and is available for multiple appointments,” says Liena.

“ALong with talking about care options, the hub is also an important space for the Speak Up Now – Stop Domestic and Family Violence group.

“They aim to raise awareness of domestic violence, including elder abuse, through education, forums, and other information services, so that we all can help to reduce this kind of abuse within our community.

“We provide a safe, confidential space for people to talk with trained professionals,” continues Liena, “and our goal is not to make decisions for people, but to facilitate these difficult conversations before a dispute arises.”

It can sometimes be easier to have difficult conversations with strangers, meeting together in neutral territory, and at The Conversation Hub families can make this happen.

“We have trained facilitators and professionals in areas such as finance, law and aged care to share thoughts, explore options and investigate further professional areas of support,” explains Liena.

“You can attend an appointment via Zoom if you can’t be there in person. We know family dynamics can be difficult, and we can work with you all in uncomfortable situations to facilitate a positive outcome.”

Who might use the service? It’s beneficial for people who don’t know where to begin. Not everyone has a support network. You may have family in other countries but not here. Maybe you are dealing with the trauma of moving a parent to a care home who refuses to move. 

“We help people who need it. We understand the hesitation and the fear. These are tough situations for families, and it can feel lonely, scary and even shameful as people may feel that they should know what to do next. It can be challenging, and we are here to help,” smiles Liena.

“When it comes to discussing care with family it can be a difficult conversation. While the choice is still theirs, discussing the medical, financial, care and legal needs of our elderly will help protect our loved ones and will give the family peace of mind.

“It’s important that people also know there is a dedicated Queensland Elder Abuse Helpline available (1300 651 192) or 1800 Elder Help (1800 353 374).” 

The helpline is funded by the Queensland Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. It provides information, support, and referrals for older people, and is a resource for people who witness or suspect an older person is being abused or neglected.

In the 2020-2021 financial year, the helpline received 3430 calls. Of those figures, 2022 calls were notifying of different types of elder abuse, including psychological and financial. This is a 31.8% rise from the previous year. There has been a marked rise due to the social and economic impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hinterland region is no exception to the contributing issues which can affect all areas, such as housing affordability, income inequity, lack of access to aged care support and expectations around intergenerational wealth transfer.

The numbers were distressingly high in abuse committed by family members living in the same household and close or intimate relationships (sons and daughters) at 80.7%. Factors such as cohabitation, dependency and complex family history may contribute to the risk of elder abuse as it is a complex social issue.

“The Conversation Hub is an excellent resource for families which anyone can access; it could be a son, a daughter or a parent themselves in a difficult situation and needing advice. It may also be a carer, a neighbour, anyone that needs support or knows someone who does.”

Liena has observed that the barriers that stop people from seeking help range from embarrassment, stigma and shame, complicated family politics, through to not knowing where to go, who to trust or what to say.

“Bringing the issue to the table to discuss it is half the battle for most families. Once the conversation is flowing, we can help people find solutions and reach out to the right professionals.

“I am convinced of the power of facilitated conversation and making the time to set up a Power of Attorney agreement when times are good is the best way to help make decisions about personal matters for when times do get tougher. Please try to have that conversation now, before it is too late.”

You can get in contact with the team today at The Conversation Hub by phoning them on 0436 361 392 or by emailing confidentially to brconversationhub@gmail.com 

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