Financial abuse is most common kind of elder abuse.

Financial abuse is most common kind of elder abuse.

Advocare has released its first National Elder Abuse Annual report and the results are disturbing.

As many as 1 in 5 older Australians may be suffering from some kind of elder abuse and the biggest perpetrators are their own children, the report says.

The report shows that of the perpetrators of elder abuse, 32% are the sons and 30% are the daughters of the victims. The data from elder abuse hotlines established across Australia show that 33% of the abuse is happening in rural or remote communities, and 23% of the abuse happens to those with a disability.

But Advocare chief executive Greg Mahney says this figures are only the tip of the iceberg and adds: “The question is, when will this issue be addressed nationally to ensure our seniors and our future seniors no longer suffer abuse?”

The most common kind of abuse is financial abuse, where older people are taken advantage of or have their assets stolen or embezzled.

Financial elder abuse can take many forms:

  • Stealing cash, directly or from bank accounts
  • Forging the victim’s signature
  • Coercing or deceiving the victim to sign a power of attorney or will or other legal document
  • Using property or assets for their own benefit without permission
  • Promising care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
  • Scamming a older person through deception, trickery, false pretence, or dishonesty to gain financial benefits

The perpetrators of this crime is usually family members, most often the children of the victim. Other people who financially abuse elders include:

  • Caregivers
  • Sudden new friends or sweethearts
  • Neighbours

Mr Mahney wants a national approach to crack down on abusers and has suggested several reforms.  “These include random audits of enduring powers of attorney to ensure they are being used legitimately, reforms to the banking industry to alert older customers of unusual activity and clarity to legislation about family agreements,” he said.

But he acknowledges that many elder abuse cases go unreported because the victim is embarrassed or afraid. “Prosecuting may lead to family backlash, or in many instances older people want the abuse to stop without breaking the relationship,” he said.

At Estate Battles, we often act for people who have been the victim of financial abuse and we are experienced in all areas of elder law. If you need help, we offer a free 10-minute phone consultation. Contact us today.