Estate Group update: It’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
JUN 15, 2021
Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic it has never been more appropriate to address the growing concerns about the vulnerability of Australia’s older population. The day serves as a global platform to raise awareness of and challenge elder abuse.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse takes various forms and sadly is perpetrated by those most close to the victims, often family members.
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’. This could involve financial, physical, psychological and sexual abuse or be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.
Financial elder abuse — a growing concern for older Australians
Particularly insidious is abuse of a financial nature whereby crimes are perpetrated either intentionally or unintentionally and involve the illegal, improper use or mismanagement of a person’s money, property or financial resources. It is estimated that financial abuse impacts around six percent of older Australians.
Examples of financial elder abuse include:
- threatening, coercing, putting undue pressure of forcing an older person into selling or handing over an asset or property, signing a document, wills or Powers of Attorney;
- an attorney, under a Power of Attorney, abusing or neglecting an older person’s finances or stealing goods from an older person such as using their banking and financial documents without authorisation;
- generally managing the finances of a competent older person without permission or incurring bills for which an older person is responsible;
- appropriating the proceeds of the sale of an older person’s home with the promise of providing future accommodation or care and then not providing it; and
- pressuring an older person to relinquish an anticipated inheritance or gift or loan.
The recent Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence recognised that financial elder abuse is often hidden and goes unreported by the victim out of shame and embarrassment, fear of getting a family member in trouble and not wanting to break up family relationships. This is particularly prevalent where the elderly person is reliant upon their abuser for care.
Victoria Police commences pilot program for elder abuse matters
Recently, Victoria Police commenced a pilot program for elder abuse matters on a trial basis, to be run in selected local government areas within Victoria with a view to establishing a state-wide operating model for responding to financial elder abuse.
The objectives of the trial are to improve the following:
- understanding of the different types of financial elder abuse and how it differs from intimate partner violence;
- strengthening reporting channels for victims;
- the police response to, and investigation of, financial elder abuse; and
- the understanding of the range of options required to protect victims.
The launch of this program is essential to stemming and addressing the perpetration of abuse against our elder population as well as educating the community as to both the intentional and unintentional forms of this abuse.
Here to protect residents of aged care
KCL Law is a proud allied firm of ALARM, a not-for-profit group whose core mission is to secure and improve the lives of residents of aged care.
ALARM seeks immediate industry behaviour change and redress through facilitating litigation by connecting victims with law firms, such as KCL Law, and ultimate change through law reform.
If you have concerns about the treatment of a loved one or suspect financial abuse against an elder Australian, it is essential that you seek appropriate advice.
Our Estate Group deals with all guardianship, elder law and administration issues and can provide advice in relation to:
- powers of attorney;
- VCAT Guardianship hearings;
- VCAT Administration hearings;
- capacity disputes;
- aged care advice; and
- elder law advice.
If you need advice, please contact a member of our Estate Group:
Principal Lawyer and
Head of Estate Group
D +61 3 8600 8885
Principal Lawyer and
Accredited Specialist in Wills and Estates Law
D +61 3 8600 0710
D +61 3 8600 8817
D +61 3 8600 8806
D +61 3 8600 8826
D +61 3 8600 8803
D +61 3 8600 8824
This Estate Group update was authored by Laura Godfrey, Lawyer.
Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.