Elder abuse is a form of family violence. It can occur in various ways – including physical, emotional, sexual and financial – and instances of elder abuse often do not happen in isolation. Seniors exposed to financial abuse may also be the victim of emotional abuse.
Most often, elder abuse is carried out by someone known and trusted by the victim, such as a family member or a friend.
Though it is shocking to think of our elders, who deserve so much respect, experiencing abuse, it is only by understanding elder abuse, knowing what forms it takes, and by being able to identify it that we hope to end the scourge.
Victoria Police and State Trustees have released a video showing the warning signs of elder abuse, including what to look out for, and what you can do if you believe someone is at risk.
Financial abuse: the most common type of elder abuse
Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse; at any given time, State Trustees is investigating up to 200 cases of alleged financial elder abuse around Victoria.
Financial abuse occurs when a person in a position of trust, such as a family member, improperly or illegally uses the money or assets of an older person – usually for their own gain.
Examples of financial abuse include:
- Spending an older person’s money on items that are not related to that person.
- Emotional intimidation, such as causing the older person to feel guilty for not providing enough financial support.
- Stealing money, property or household goods.
- Not paying bills on the older person’s behalf.
- Misuse of a victim’s personal cheques, bank cards and accounts.
- Adding their own name to a bank card.
- Withholding visits in return for money.
“Intimidations or threats are not acceptable. There is no excuse for elder abuse,” the video states.
How can elder abuse be prevented?
We recommend the following actions be taken to help prevent financial elder abuse:
- Appoint an independent Attorney for financial matters. If the older person wants to appoint a family member as an Attorney, select more than one Attorney.
- Seek independent advice.
- Have an up-to-date Will.
- Make loans legally binding.
- Formally document living arrangements.
- An Enduring Power of Attorney can be appointed for financial matters, and their power still has effect after the older person has lost their mental capacity. If, for whatever reason, a person does not want to entrust this responsibility to their family, they can choose to appoint an independent organisation, such as State Trustees, as their Attorney for financial matters.
- State Trustees can be granted the power to act as a financial attorney, and can help to arrange, protect and manage all the financial assets of a senior to ensure their wishes are carried out. By having a financial attorney, seniors won’t have to worry about the everyday details of managing their money.
How to get help
Victoria Police has Family Violence units that can investigate reports of violence, asses them and provide advice. You can access Victoria Police’s Family Violence services by calling triple zero (000).
Or call State Trustees to help protect assets and prevent seniors becoming victims of financial elder abuse. State Trustees has been protecting vulnerable Victorians for generations.
Call State Trustees on 03 9667 6444 or 1300 138 672 (outside of Melbourne).