The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines financial elder abuse as “The illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or other resources of the older person”. WHO estimates that one in ten people experience elder abuse each month, and this number is expected to increase with the ageing population, growth in house prices and rise in superannuation savings. It is a significant problem for the elderly as it threatens their autonomy and can severely damage family relationships.
Examples of financial elder abuse include when an older person has not provided consent for another individual to:
- Withdraw money from their bank or credit card,
- Sell property, or
- Use a power of attorney to make transactions.
Signs that someone is a victim of financial elder abuse include:
- Difficulty paying bills,
- Unusual bank withdrawals,
- Changes to a will,
- Missing possessions, and
- Change in behaviour.
If you recognise these signs, you can contact the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221. They offer information, support, training, referrals, and raise awareness of prevention strategies. You can also make an application to the Guardianship Division of NCAT who deal with the relationship between individuals and decision-making disabilities.
Individuals have previously been charged for elder abuse, such as Mr Williams who was sentenced to one year in jail in 2016 for using a power of attorney to take $157, 000 of his father’s savings. Mr Williams was appointed attorney when his father was not mentally incapable due to his anxiety, depression and alcoholism.
To prevent elder abuse from occurring in the first place, advanced planning documents, such as wills, enduring documents, and family agreements, should be made. Telemon Lawyers can be utilised to assist you in preparing and executing these documents. We will ensure that those appointed to gain authority have the capacity, time and interest in managing your affairs to the best of their ability. We will also confirm that the elderly individual consents fully to the contents of the document and imposes limitations where they please. Lawyers can also be of assistance in recognising signs that a client is being pressured to create or alter these documents.
Moreover, from the 19th to the 20th of December the National Elder Abuse Conference was held in Sydney. It discussed the Federal Government’s and Elder Abuse Action Australia’s proposal to combat elder abuse through the implantation of a National Plan that will educate lawyers, create an online knowledge centre and increase the responsibility of banks to identify and report elder abuse.