What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is when older adults are subject to abuse, either physically or financially (sadly, sometimes both), usually by someone who is supposed to be trusted by the older person, like a family member, friend, neighbour or paid carer.

It can be unintentional or deliberate, with the harm ranging from poor care through to serious, deliberately inflicted injury, and it often occurs when there is an expectation of trust. This could be in a pre-existing relationship, or a new relationship, which may appear genuine at face value but has been established by the other person for their own self-interest.

Elder abuse is a really complex issue, with older adults often more vulnerable to both physical and financial abuse because they are commonly dependant on others for their day-to-day care.

It is also often closely linked with financial abuse, which happens when the caregiver influences or manipulates the older person’s decision-making, or takes control of their bank accounts and assets without consent. Often the abuse involves using the person’s money, property or other assets illegally or improperly, coercing them to change their will, or getting them to sign documents that negatively affect their financial situation.

What should you look out for?

Some of the signs that might indicate you or somebody you know are being financially abused include:

  • Unauthorised transactions, withdrawals or transfers made from accounts
  • Coercion involving alterations to a will or power of attorney
  • The appointed power of attorney not acting in the best interest of the person they care for
  • Unpaid bills, despite having a trusted person allocated to make the payments
  • Stolen or unauthorised seizure of assets, property or possessions
  • Irregular or unusual patterns on the victim’s account
  • Unexplained transactions or transfers to family or third parties
  • A lack of awareness or clarity of the older person’s own financial situation
  • Feeling pressured into being a guarantor to a loan without fully understanding the obligations

You can find out more, plus access some really helpful resources developed by the ABA, by viewing the ABA Elder Abuse Fact Sheet and the ABA's video: Protecting Older Australians.