Financial elder abuse is more prevalent than you may think

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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.

Questionable investments
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.

Strong-arm tactics
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.

Withholding funds
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:

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia


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Written by Debbie McTaggart


Total Comments: 2
  1. 0

    I am amazed how simple it appears to be get away with elder abuse. I recently had a relative pass away. The partner was also in the same hospital and room. Immediately a neighbour and relatives of the deceased began to visit and stay beside the partner of the deceased for unbroken periods of 6-8 hours per day. These persons, who were not close to the partner while the deceased was alive, were successful in completely changing the values of honesty,integrity and behaviours exhibited by the partner for over 65 years. To break the persons rationality and reasoning they used a technique of repetitively feeding lies and innuendo for extended periods of time for over seven weeks thus not allowing the person time to grieve. It worked and they successfully achieved having the previously appointed POA, executor and solicitor changed to one of their own. Their cruelty has left a profoundly broken human being who never had the chance to appropriately grieve the loss of a spouse of sixty years. It seems that they had a carefully premeditated plan ready to action. Having observed this treachery and calculated abuse and found that there is no way to prevent it, as of now, I warn other families to be very wary of everyone when trying to protect and elderly relative. With hindsight time is of the essence in such a situation. We failed because we wrongfully believed that we were dealing with decent human beings and they were astute enough to leverage that belief into a weakness. They are beyond contempt but, so far, appear to have the law on their side.

  2. 0

    I had to have my brothers EPA removed as he and my sister were trying to get their hands on mums house money. This was in 2014. Mum is still alive at 95. I had to take this matter to the State Administrative Tribunal in Perth. The money is invested safely.



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