We all have a role in preventing elder abuse

The Public Trustee recently participated in the COTA Tasmania’s Walk against Elder abuse to help raise awareness to stamp out ageism and abuse.

Elder abuse is a silent and growing tragedy in our society. All Tasmanians need to be aware of signs and know where to get help. CEO, Todd Kennedy, said, “all older people have the right to be safe from elder abuse and everyone has a role to play.”

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”

One in six Australians aged 65 or older living in the community experience elder abuse each year, according to Australia’s first elder abuse prevalence study, released by the Australian Government in December 2021.

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.

Financial abuse appears to be the most common form of abuse experienced by elderly people.

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 Father’s property and keeping the proceeds;
  • 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; and
  • A service provider bills an older person for services they are not receiving.

Financial elder abuse doesn’t happen just to the sick and frail it can happen to any older person, and we all have a responsibility to be on the lookout.

Prevention is the key,

  • 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 document to state your personal and medical wishes.
  • Stay connected with family and friends, learn more about your rights and use personal services for support.
  • Check in with the elderly people in your life and community. Look for signs of abuse and know where to access help. The Public Trustee has Elder Abuse Help and Resources information on their website.

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