Calls to criminalise elder abuse

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A New South Wales parliamentary committee is looking into elder abuse, as lawyers call for tougher penalties for fears the problem will worsen as our population ages.

New laws are required to deal with this hidden crime, which can take different forms, such as emotional, sexual, physical and, most commonly, financial abuse.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan believes that elder abuse is a “huge problem” that is only going to get worse.

“Elder abuse is a huge problem in Australia,” she told the ABC’s 7.30. “It affects all kinds of families, it’s not just something that affects poor people or rich people or migrant families, it happens right throughout our community and it’s getting worse.”

Ms Ryan is calling for systemic changes aimed at informing and protecting older people, as well as looking at new ways to encourage victims to come forward.

Over six per cent of older Australians are victims of abuse, with that number being potentially much higher, as many older people are too ashamed or embarrassed to report such instances – especially when the offender is a family member.

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health has presented a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into elder abuse, saying that a prime target for elder abuse are women who are less educated and have trouble managing their finances.

John Watkins from Alzheimer’s Australia is concerned about the current instances of elder abuse, and fears that, as the population ages, it will become more prevalent – especially for those who live with dementia.

“Abuse of all forms certainly will be a factor that we need to consider in relation to those people and a subset of that group, those people living with dementia 340,000 Australians and within 15 years, half a million,” he said. “My concern is very real for the protection of those people with dementia because they are even more vulnerable.”

One such cause of elder abuse is something called ‘inheritance impatience’ which is, as the name suggests, when families can’t wait to seize control of the assets and incomes of their parents and grandparents.

“We are seeing older people imprisoned in their homes; we are seeing them being robbed of their savings, of their superannuation, of their homes,” said NSW Police Superintendent Rob Critchlow. “We are seeing people commit serious offences, multi hundred thousand dollar frauds, thefts of a large scale … and we often lack the ability to prosecute.”

Currently no laws exist in Australia that require people to report elder abuse to police and, according to John Watkins, the aim of the New South Wales inquiry should be to investigate the need for legal reform as well as create a national awareness campaign to help expose this issue and make it easier for victims to report their circumstances.

Watch the report on 7.30
Read more at www.abc.net.au
Read more at The World Today

Do you know anyone who has been a victim of elder abuse? Have you been in a position where you have had to consider reporting someone for any type of abuse? What do you think of the current laws, or lack thereof, governing elder abuse?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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58 Comments

Total Comments: 58
  1. 0
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    The next “Women’s Health” study. Does it never end.
    What you are writing about leon is ‘society’ at large. We have child molestation and abuse at one end, domestic violence in the middle and now elder abuse. This is the price of for the death of our )once) Christian society. God help us.

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    Having just gone through this with my sister stealing my mothers nest egg over the last three months, I am left in the daunting position of trying to pick up the pieces and get her fonances( bills that my sister told us she was helping mum pay by doing it on the Internet for her))back into some semblance of normalcy. I have been told my by mother not to tell my brothers and sisters and to keep it quiet.
    I am so angry and also not sure how to handle these feelings. I’ve never been in this position before. My sister has borrowed money if my mother her entire life with no thought of paying it back. Not only did she steal here nest egg she also stole out of her everyday pension account. All this time ( three months) my mom has also been paying for her food so as she can get a cooked meal every night.
    My mother states that I don’t know her circumstances and have no right to interfere, but what gives anyone’s child the right to do this. If I see her I will probably tear her apart.
    I need some advice here guys. Please help me if you have any ideas. It’s true our parents don’t want to beleive yheir children could do this to them and secondly are too embarrassed to do anything about it. My mom is trying to come up with all sorts of excuses for my sister. I don’t know what to do. I want to follow her wishes but my sister has said she will pay it back at fifty dollars a month. The money will be lucky to be paid back in my lifetime.
    My brother seems to be avoiding the issue. I told him there was a problem but am still waiting him to get back to me.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m still in shock over my sister doing this to her own mother. Especially the fact that she has left her with not enough to pay her bills thanks for any advice in advance.

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      Jewells are you able to get power of attorney for you mother so you can manage her affairs? It is illegal for someone holding PoA to mismanage finances. Please get the advice of a lawyer whose speciality is Wills, PoA, and power of guardianship.
      Do not keep secrets from your siblings in spite of what your mother says as secrets will fester.
      Does your mother have some dementia? This might explain why she is unable to tackle this situation herself and requests secrecy.

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      Jewells Your mother would have to agree for you to have Power Of Attorney and it is possible your sister has it already without you knowing.

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      Jewells, secrecy is what allows abuse of all kinds to flourish. I say tell your other siblings. They have a right to know what is happening to their Mother. Also it is very difficult to deal with by yourself and they may be able to offer help and support even if not financial in nature.

      I agree with Jennie, try to obtain Power of Attorney over your Mother’s financial affairs. The main problem with this is that your Mother would need to agree which may be difficult if she does not recognise or accept the problems with your sister’s behaviour. It does make one wonder how your sister is accessing your Mother’s bank accounts. You may have to consider reporting the theft of your Mother’s money to police if your sister has been illegally accessing your Mother’s accounts. That may be the only way to stop it if you cannot get Power of Attorney.Could you talk to the bank perhaps? They might have some advice too.

      If your sister is dealing with her own problems and your post seems to imply that she is, could one of your siblings find out what is going on there and then you could all guide her to the help she might need. But ultimately your sister needs to take responsibility for her own problems and seek the help she needs.

      Good luck

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      If you live in Qld and apply to the Adult gaurdian for Power of Attorney to manage your mother’s finances, you may find the A G will put your mothers finances with the Public Trustee. The PT is a businesss and an expensive one at that.

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      Jewells, First thing to do is to get your mother to cancel your sister’s access to withdrawals from your mother’s account. Talk to your mum about this and then contact the bank to organise it so that sis either needs a second signature (I suggest yours) for access or she is totally prohibited.
      Look into power of attorney for yourself; can be done online, just google.
      Good luck

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      There are a lot of undisclosed side issues at this stage to give proper advice. But what is clear, you MUST involve all your siblings in discussions about your mothers future finances. Your case is not unique and there is a lot of grief involved to resolve these issues. It’s too early to call the police and Lawyers will only cost you a packet for little if any gainful result! You all have to ask yourselves, Who can really look afte mum and her financial affairs????

      And get mum to agree to pay bills by direct debit from her pool of cash.

      Power of Attorney? Are you nearby to operate her accounts??? And if I were your brother or sister I would want to know ‘why you who has power of attorney’???

      You need a family discussion to thrash out a few basic issues and as suggested above , ‘Good Luck’.

  3. 0
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    I see a picture of a man at the top of this article… There is no mention that this article is about women. But bear in mind that women usually live longer than men – perhaps that is not such a blessing…

  4. 0
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    Neglect and abuse pure and simple should be sanctioned – you need to look at all the facts, of course, and be sure what you are dealing with.

    • 0
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      Think you left out something there TREBOR.

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      I agree, something is missing and the box for those comments is prone to mistakes. I often look back and find a misspelt word … The spell check has taken over with the wrong result. And it’s difficult to correct yhat already printed. It’s very unfriendly!!!

      YLC … Over to you on that!!!!

  5. 0
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    Know all about ‘inheritance impatience’. There are people that will circle around to see what they can get

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      So true. It’s even worse when you have a mother who has lost it and surrounds herself with parasites who walk in off the street and become instant friends.
      Our laws rarely consider the children and need to be brought into line with other countries.

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      Leo, they are called “vultures”.

  6. 0
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    Here we go again – more words. But will there be any action. My mother was a client of both the Adult guardian and the public Trustee for nine years, but it didn’t stop her from being financially abused and most likely emotionally too, because my sister knew how to work the system. I was also abused because I was the one that applied to the adult guardian. The means are there to stop the abuse but authorizes seems very reluctant to do anything.

  7. 0
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    Yep! My ‘full of hubris’ brother captured my mother’s estate with the power of attorney he gave himself when my mother was at the height of her dementia. He did the same thing with my younger brother’s estate. It’s a long story, but finally the outcome was to split and fragment the whole family. Then he died, leaving a complete mess and a once harmonious, loving family, completely sundered. Every life-long family blood bond was destroyed.
    Crazy thing, my wife’s younger sister did the same thing to her mother’s estate.

  8. 0
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    Elder abuse has been written and talked about for quite a number of years now and unfortunately it has been all talk and not much action by the ‘powers’ to be. Sadly, that’s not unusual. However the abuse to elderly, both male and females, and done mainly by close family members, being their own children and younger siblings, is disgusting and stronger action, less talk, to stop this, has to be taken on board by the various authorities.

  9. 0
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    That Last 6 Monthly Pension “Increase” was Elder Abuse !! 🙁 🙁

  10. 0
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    Reckon Scott Morrison will get the book thrown at him…..

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