Australia has a rapidly ageing population and the community needs to address and be aware of the risks surrounding elder abuse. Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person with whom that older person has a relationship of trust with such as a partner, family member, friend or carer. Elder abuse violates an older person’s basic right to feel safe. It is a controlling action which frightens or intimidates the elderly individual and can occur at any time.

Today (the 20th of February, 2018) Attorney-General Christian Porter has announced a national plan to stop elder abuse, declaring that this is one of his top priorities for this year. Mr Porter said that national data indicates that the proportion of people aged above 65 will increase from 15% of the population to almost 25% by 2055. Currently indications are that up to 12% of elderly people around the world, including those that live in assisted care, experience some form of elder abuse.

“From this time on in Australia, elder abuse will no longer be someone else’s problem and I am committed to working with [organisations] to eradicate it in our community,” Mr Porter told a conference assembled in Sydney.

What Does Elder Abuse Look Like?

Elder abuse can be defined as the single or repeated act, or lack of action occurring within any relationships where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. Elder abuse can take many forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

One of the more prominent and concerning forms of elder abuse is financial abuse, being the illegal or improper use of an older person’s property or finances. Examples of financial abuse include your pension being skimmed or money taken from your bank account, your belongings sold without permission, your money or property being taken improperly through the misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney, and being denied access to or control of your own funds.

Another prominent form of elder abuse is psychological abuse, which can include a carer intimidating, humiliating or harassing an elderly person, being threatened physically and/or emotionally, being restrained from seeing family or friends, and being denied the right to make your own decisions.

Other forms of elder abuse include neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. It is important to be on the lookout for signs for any of these warning signs, and ensure to alert the appropriate individual (which can be carer staff, family members etc). For more information, please see the guidelines of responding to elder abuse on the elder abuse hotline. 

While anecdotal evidence of elder abuse is abundant, there remains a lack of concrete statistics on the extent of the problem. Future research is needed to provide updated and appropriate tools to assist in identifying abuse of older people. This will be a priority of Attorney-General Porter, who believes that we don’t currently have a detailed and in-depth picture of the problem in Australia.

If you believe that you or your loved one are being submitted to elder abuse, please don’t hesitate to contact the estate planning lawyers at Owen Hodge Lawyers. James Kelly or Lindsay Stoddart will be able to help you with any of your estate planning needs – including looking out for elder abuse. Contact us on 1800 770 780 or ohl@owenhodge.com.au    

For more information on Elder Law please click here.