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There is no excuse for elder abuse

6 Jun 2017

Safeguarding the assets of an older person

Financial elder abuse is often a hidden and complex problem that is difficult to identify, hard to prove and can be difficult to rectify once it is discovered.

It can happen in someone’s home. It can happen in a residential care facility. It can happen if you have a lot of money. It can happen if you don’t have much money. Sometimes it happens very deliberately and other times it happens through well-intentioned actions that have unanticipated consequences. Financial elder abuse can and does happen, and there is no excuse for it.

State Trustees’ research estimates that up to five per cent of people aged 65 and older have experienced and reported financial abuse.* With a rapidly ageing population living longer, this is a societal problem that is only going to get bigger.

One thing is certain – most people don’t think it will happen to them. State Trustees’ research shows that sons and daughters are the most common perpetrators of financial elder abuse followed by close and trusted people such as spouses/partners, carers, extended family and neighbours.

Who is at risk?

Women over 80, people experiencing social or physical isolation, people with deteriorating mental or physical health and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are the most vulnerable due to their dependence on other people for their daily living needs.

Elder abuse can have a terrible impact on the wellbeing of an older person. According to the research, a high proportion of people choose to live with the abuse rather than make a fuss or break up a family unit or a friendship. For others, they don’t know where to turn to for help, they are too scared to take action or they aren’t confident in managing their own affairs.

Prevention can make a difference

Many organisations such as State Trustees are speaking out about financial elder abuse to help raise awareness and educate people about the impact of this ‘silent crime’.

Prevention and early intervention can make a real difference in safeguarding the assets of an older person. We recommend the following actions be taken to help prevent financial elder abuse:

  • Appoint an independent Attorney for financial matters or, if appointing family members, appoint more than one Attorney for financial matters
  • Get independent advice
  • Have an up to date Will
  • Make loans legally binding
  • Formally document living arrangements

By far the best protection is for someone to prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney for financial matters today. If, for whatever reason, a person does not want to entrust this responsibility to their family, they can choose to appoint us as their Attorney for financial matters.

Getting help

When State Trustees is granted the power to act as a financial attorney, we help arrange, protect and manage all the financial assets of an older person to ensure their wishes are carried out, so they don’t have to worry about the everyday details of managing their money.

We urge anyone who thinks they could be at risk of financial elder abuse now or in the future to take a hands on approach.  As the Public Trustee of Victoria, State Trustees’ mission is to protect the vulnerable and uphold the legacy of Victorians.

There is no excuse for elder abuse. State Trustees can help.
Call us today on 03 9667 6444 or 1300 138 672 (outside Melbourne) for a confidential discussion.

*Protecting Elders Assets Study (PEAS): Ethical Management of Older Persons’ Financial Assets (2009-2011), Monash University


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