Financial elder abuse may seem like something that happens to others or those with lots of money stashed away, but the sad reality is that it’s more prevalent than you may think.
Although elder abuse largely goes unreported, it is estimated that between two and 10 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse in any year.
Financial elder abuse appears to be the most common, as borne out by calls to the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit in 2014-15. During this period, financial elder abuse accounted for 40 per cent of calls, compared to 35 per cent for psychological abuse. Physical abuse, which is perhaps what people are most likely to link to elder abuse, actually only accounted for five per cent of reports. Where the perpetrators were adult children, financial abuse accounted for 39 per cent of reports and psychological abuse for 38 per cent and were the most common types of abuse.
Financial elder abuse is often difficult to spot and even more difficult to prove. If you care for an elder relative or person, here are five common forms of financial elder abuse that you should be on the lookout for.
Abuse of power of attorney
Once a power of attorney has been appointed, changes to bank accounts or investments should be monitored. For example, if a person’s bank account is changed to a joint account and frequent or large withdrawals are made, you should ask for an explanation.
If the person in charge of an elder person’s investments approaches their adviser and asks for changes to me made, especially to higher-risk investments, then advice should be sought. Advisers should be alert to making questionable changes that may not be in the best interests of the elder investor.
A caregiver may start to plant the seed that he or she should be given a larger inheritance than other members of the family, and may well coerce the elder person into changing their will. Family members need to be vigilant and it’s often wise not to have any one person in full financial control.
In order to inherit more money, it may be tempting for an individual in charge of an elder’s finances to opt for a cheaper care home, refuse to spend money on in-home care, or replace household items that may be worn or broken. Similarly, refusing to switch on heating or cooling in order to keep bills low, or buying low-quality food may also be an indication of elder abuse.
Large and expensive purchases
If you note a family member or caregiver suddenly driving around in flash, new car or taking expensive holidays, it could be an indication that funds are being syphoned from an elder person. Vigilance is key at all times.
So, what should you do if you’re experiencing elder abuse or suspect someone is being abused? There are many support services around the country and to find the one nearest to you, simply click on your state or territory below: