How to protect yourself or a loved one from financial elder abuse

Financial abuse is a silent and growing tragedy in our society. It is an issue that can affect anyone, but some people, like the elderly, people with a disability or other vulnerable and isolated people are at greater risk.

CEO Todd Kennedy said, “Sadly with elder abuse, it is common across Tasmania and the rest of the nation. The statistics show that one in six older Australians are subjected to elder abuse, which includes financial.”

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”

“All Tasmanians need to be aware of signs and know where to get help. All older people have the right to be safe from elder abuse and everyone has a role to play.” Mr Kennedy said.

Elder abuse is often hidden behind closed doors and can happen anywhere from aged care facilities to in-home servicing, but unfortunately, perpetrators are mostly family members.

Sadly, two-thirds of older people don’t seek help when they are abused. This can be due to many reasons such as a fear of retaliation or feelings of shame or guilt over the situation. If a family member is a perpetrator, the older person may not want to get them into trouble or a lack of knowledge about available sources of help may prevent them from getting the assistance they need.

What does Financial elder abuse look like?

  • A family member moving into an older person’s home without consent and contributing to household costs;
  • A carer uses an older person’s money, cards or bank accounts without permission;
  • A daughter abuses her role as enduring power of attorney by selling her parents’ property and keeping the proceed;
  • An online scammer tricking an older person into donating to a fake charity;
  • A son coerces his mother into being a guarantor for a loan;
  • A service provider bills an older person for services they are not receiving; and
  • Giving someone a loan that is never paid back. Or threatening or pressuring them to invest in something on their behalf.

Increased house prices and reasonable superannuation balances can mean that some older people are in a good financial position. This can lead to family members feeling a sense of entitlement, with some people referring to it as ‘inheritance impatience’.

Prevention is the key – How to protect yourself.

  • Start by securing your financial future with a Will and enduring power of attorney. Appoint an executor or attorney you trust to take care of your affairs.
  • You can also consider preparing an enduring guardianship or an advance care directive document to state your personal and medical wishes.
  • Always protect your bank and financial cards, cheque books and other important documents. Never hand over a PIN or password to anyone.
  • Improve your financial literacy, always read contracts and other documents carefully and never sign anything under duress, seek legal advice when needed.
  • Stay connected with family and friends, learn more about your rights and use personal services for support.

Protecting Loved Ones:

Elder Abuse Help and Resources are available on our website. We all need to work together to combat financial elder abuse and ensure the safety and well-being of our elderly population.

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