National Seniors Australia is shining a light on financial elder abuse ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 15 June 2023.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said people can be at increased risk of abuse as they get older. Sadly, those closest to them (including family, carers or friends) are the most likely perpetrators of abuse.
“Elder abuse can take many forms, but financial abuse is the most common. 85% of elder financial abuse is committed by family, with children accounting for nearly 50%,’ Mr Henschke said.
“As opposed to scams by strangers, financial abuse can involve a person in a position of trust coercing or forcing an older person to sign over assets or to change a Will or Power of Attorney, stealing money or taking credit cards. Older people fall victim to such abuses because they might never expect a loved one to take advantage of them, can’t stop it, or are too embarrassed to go to the police.”
In 2019 National Seniors made a submission to the Federal Attorney General recommending consistent and strengthened Enduring Power of Attorney laws to help protect against abuse. This hasn’t happened and the issue was raised recently by Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO who expressed frustration that action hadn’t been taken sooner.
National Seniors would also like to see implementation of the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians.
“Financial loss in later life is particularly devastating. Unfortunately, people don’t always seek help and identifying abuse can be hard. It can go unreported as it happens behind closed doors, by people in positions of trust,” Mr Henschke said.
“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity to talk about this important issue, to know the possible signs of financial elder abuse and to know where to go to for support.”
Possible signs of financial elder abuse include:
· large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts
· missing belongings or property
· new changes to a will or power of attorney
· an older person signing strange documents they didn’t understand
· bank statements that go to the perpetrator.
Where to go to for support:
If you are experiencing elder abuse, witness or suspect it call the Elder abuse phone line (1800 ELDERHELP) on 1800 353 374 – a free and confidential service.
· For Crisis Support call Lifeline on 13 11 14
· If you’re struggling with debt call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007
· If you feel your life is in danger or someone you know, call 000.
Ian Henschke is available for comment. Please call 0488 047 380.