Elder Abuse: Get advice early, not when it’s too late

IT CAN be very hard to share your circumstances and concerns about the actions of a family member. Often, it's because you feel shame over their abuse your emotional and financial trust.

What may have been a small request for assistance can over time become larger and even get out of hand to the extent that you are placed in grave circumstances.

The name for this is elder abuse and Seniors Rights Victoria manager Jenny Blakey says there is a growing acknowledgement of elder abuse as a form of family violence. One in six Australians are exposed to it every day.

The highest incidence of abuse - financial -accounts for 75 per cent of their abuse cases. And, it's often underreported, or not reported at all. 

"One of the things we often hear from older people is 'I left it too late'," Ms Blakey said. "My advice to people is to get advice earlier - don't wait until it gets too late."

Ms Blakey recommends older Australians ensure they have a Power of Attorney in place that protects them when they are unable to make decisions on their own. Giving the power to someone who can handle your money carefully, who you trust to understand your wishes and is available to act as required, is a good decision.

Last week's Council of Attorneys-General agreement to identify how to standardise Power of Attorney orders across Australia is an important step towards tackling elder financial abuse.  Australian Banking Association chief executive officer Anna Bligh said the decision is welcome, but there is still work to be done to appropriately equip local bank branch staff to detect and report elder financial abuse.

"The other thing is try and keep on top of your financial circumstances," Ms Blakey said.

She recommends being proactive in checking your accounts, taking care in handing over important information like a pin number and your card, and letting the bank know what are your financial arrangements.

If however an older person is unsure if that power is being used appropriately, Ms Blakey says they should have a confidential conversation with their bank manager and talk about how to prevent current or future financial abuse.

Names*  have been changed to protect Maria's privacy.

To seek support and information, go to - 

Australian Capital Territory - Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral and Information Line (APRIL), 02 6205 3535

New South Wales - NSW Elder Abuse Helpline, 1800 628 221

Northern Territory - Northern Territory Police, 131 444

Queensland - Elder Abuse Prevention Unit, 1300 651 192

South Australia - Aged Rights Advocacy Service Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 08 8232 5377 (Adelaide) & 1800 700 600 (rural)

Tasmania - Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline, 1800 441 169

Victoria - Seniors Rights Victoria -1300 368 821

Western Australia - Advocare Inc, 1300 724 679 (Perth) & 1800 655 566 (rural).


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