Together let’s help make elder abuse stop
Sadly, elder abuse is a serious and growing concern in our community with more than 25,000 unreported cases in Queensland alone.
Elder abuse can take many forms including financial, physical, psychological, sexual and neglect. The Public Trustee works with government agencies and organisations to help raise awareness of elder abuse because it is vital, that as a community we value and protect the rights of ageing Queenslanders.
Data from Queensland’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit suggests older people often experience elder abuse at the hands of someone close to them, such as a family member, a carer or a friend.
What is financial elder abuse?
Financial elder abuse is the misuse or theft of an older person’s money or assets.
Each year the Public Trustee helps thousands of vulnerable Queenslanders with reduced decision-making capacity, and we advocate on behalf of those who have fallen victim to the misappropriation of funds.
Some examples of financial elder abuse include:
- Forcing an elderly person to sign over their property or assets
- Misusing or taking an elderly person’s money or credit cards
- Using undue influence or deception to change the terms of an elderly person’s Will or enduring power of attorney (EPA)
- Forging an elderly person’s signature.
Key tips to avoid financial elder abuse
Unfortunately, in times of low income or unemployment, some family members can become dependent on an older person for financial support under the guise of caring for and protecting them. Here are some simple steps to help safeguard you or a loved one against elder abuse.
- Having a Will, an enduring power of attorney and an advanced health directive in place before you become incapacitated is still the safest option.
- Make sure you get independent legal advice about your Will and EPA.
- Consider putting detailed directions (such as your preferred living arrangements) into your EPA as to the types of decisions you would like made if you lose the capacity.
- Consider choosing two people you can trust to act in your best interests. In your EPA, specifically direct them to consult each other and keep each other informed when carrying out duties.
- Ensure any loans are legally binding.
What to consider when choosing an attorney
The Public Trustee recommends asking yourself the following questions when choosing an attorney:
- Is your attorney able to give the time to take on the responsibility?
- Can they obey directions and act according to any limits or conditions placed on their authority?
- Do they have the business and financial skills required to undertake the task?
- Are their interests likely to conflict with your interests?
- Can they make potentially difficult decisions free from pressure, for example from other siblings, or free from emotion for example when selling the family home and sorting contents?
- Are they susceptible to the inappropriate influence of others, such as a spouse or other family members?
- Can they be trusted to act in a way that both promotes and safeguards your rights, interests and opportunities? Do they understand and accept they are liable for the decisions they make?
- Are they accessible and accountable?
Your attorney must also recognise your right to privacy and respect your views and wishes, taking into account your values and your existing relationships.
If you have any concerns about your attorney or the person you propose to appoint, then you should consider appointing a professional, independent attorney.
What to do if you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse
You are not alone. Help is available.
If you suspect that an older person you know is being abused, or if you are experiencing elder abuse yourself, call the Elder Abuse Helpline. Anyone can make the call and you can remain anonymous if you prefer.
The Elder Abuse Helpline provides confidential information, support and referrals to appropriate services including legal, community support and advocacy services.
Phone the Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 651 192
For more information about elder abuse and support services, visit www.qld.gov.au/knowthesigns
If you witness violence, or are worried that an older person is at immediate risk, call the police on triple zero (000).