Protecting our most vulnerable

Growing older scares all of us for a variety of reasons. Some of us can’t imagine being dependant on others or finding it difficult to exercise like before. This stage of life comes with its challenges, like not being able to physically defend yourself or feeling like nobody will listen. As all age groups do, seniors deserve respect and dignity. At State Trustees we believe that through prevention and early intervention we can help protect the elderly through life’s most difficult times.

Elder abuse is a global problem and often, can be difficult to identify, It can come in various forms including, physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Most often, the damage is carried out by someone known and trusted by the victim, such as a family member, a care facilities worker or a friend. Elder abuse can include neglect and mistreatment as well as financial exploitation. Financial abuse is the most common form of abuse, and at any given time State Trustees is investigating up to 200 cases of alleged financial elder abuse. In most of these cases, a person who was in a position of trust either misused money, property or assets for their own benefit.

Actions considered to be financial abuse

  • Spending an older person’s money on things that are not related to them.
  • Emotional intimidation, such as causing the older person to feel guilty or not providing financial support/funds.
  • Stealing of money, property or household goods.
  • Not paying bills on the older person’s behalf when they were told that it would be.
  • Misuse of a victim’s personal checks, bank cards and accounts.
  • Discovering a new name has been added to a bank card.
  • Withholding visits in return for money.

Who is most at risk of financial elder abuse?

The latest figures compiled by Seniors Rights Victoria show that financial abuse and psychological/emotional abuse together are the most common forms of abuse reported by older Victorians (81.82%). Victims are most likely to be female (72.5%), and the perpetrators are 60% male and 40% female. 92.3% of abuse is perpetrated by persons related to the older person or in a de facto relationship: 66.8% of abuse is perpetrated by a child of the older person. *

Financial abuse victims could be:

  • Older adults with a diminished capacity due to a mental illness
  • Older people who feel isolated and dependant on others
  • A senior parent who feels a responsibility toward adult children, causes feelings like guilt and shame
  • Senior people who may need help with language translation for undertaking transactions or matters relating to their personal financial matters

Prevention

Have you ever heard some say: “Prevention is better than cure”? At State Trustees we believe prevention and early intervention by helping raise awareness can make a huge difference in protecting the interests of our older people.

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, select 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 an independent organisation such as State Trustees as their Attorney for financial matters.

Getting help

Granting State Trustees 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.

Disclaimers:
* Seniors Rights Victoria, Your rights webpage, 28 May 2018, Summary Report Profile of Elder Abuse in Victoria (PDF)

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