We think you are in Victoria. If not please click 'Change'

In your state, you are required to confirm you wish to access this information. Please enter 'QLD' or 'WA' in the field below to continue.

No thanks

Elder abuse: The telltale signs


elspeth-dalzell Written by:
Elle Dalzell
Branch Manager, Newcastle

In the 1970s, 8% of the population was over the age of 65. This figure grew to 13% in 2001, and it’s predicted that over-65s will make up 25% of the population by 2042. That’s a growth from 2.5 million to 6.2 million.


Rise in population, rise in abuse

While the increase in the numbers of people aged over 65 is partly the happy result of greater longevity, we’ve also seen the rise of a new, related problem – elder abuse.

In June, national Legal Aid Chairman Graham Hill warned that skyrocketing Australian property prices had led to a worrying increase in elder abuse cases, as adult children struggled to enter the property market without financial assistance.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a term used to describe an act or omission that inflicts harm towards the elderly. It can take the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, as well as financial exploitation, abandonment and neglect.

We’re currently seeing increasing numbers of reports of financial abuse across the media. Sadly, recognition of this abuse often comes too late. There are, however, important warning signs for family, friends and carers to look out for so they can be forearmed and ready to protect their loved ones from people looking to take advantage of them.


Financial abuse:

When our loved ones are financially abused, they may already be in a state where they were unable to adequately handle their own monetary affairs. This makes it difficult for them to report the abuse or for onlookers to identify it.

Telltale signs to look out for include:

  • Unexplained changes in financial situations, such as not being able to cover regular expenses
  • Large withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Unexplained disappearance of belongings

Medical abuse:

Medical abuse is the type often seen in nursing homes and hospitals – situations where an elderly resident or patient is inadequately cared for.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Inadequate clothing or heating / cooling
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Skin diseases, infections or bruises
  • Insufficient hygiene practices leading to unnecessary conditions (mouth infections from poor oral hygiene for example)
  • Pressure sores, bedsores or blisters from lack of movement
  • Dramatic, unexplained weight loss

Physical abuse:

In environments where family and friends are not around 24/7, loved ones may be subjected to physical abuse or rough handling.

Indications that physical abuse may be occurring include:

  • Evidence of rough handling
  • Cuts, sprains, broken bones, bruises or hair loss
  • Overuse of a medication to sedate or restrain the person

Psychological abuse:

Elder abuse is not always physical.

Loved ones should be wary of the following signs:

  • Sudden increase in anxiety, depression, sadness or anger
  • Fearfulness of certain people or situations

Put a stop to elder abuse

Mistreatment of the most vulnerable members of society is never acceptable. It’s time we gave these victims a voice.

If you suspect that a family member or friend is being mistreated, it is important to report this abuse to the police and seek legal advice to remedy the abuse. Our team of abuse law experts can listen to your story and guide you on the next best steps for your situation. Get in touch today.

Related content: 

A version of this article appears on Starts at 60.

Written by Elle Dalzell on . Last modified: December 20, 2017.

Join the discussion

Share this article:

  • Edna Adamson wrote:

    This is very interesting. My husband died from being over sedated in a private hospital . Due to the sedation he was unable to swallow his medication for Parkinson’s Disease . He collapsed and was rushed to Public hospital where he died due to Aspiration Pneumonia . I complained re his treatment at the PH after his death got no where.Also to the Minister for Health Same result. The staff At the public hospital were wonderful . He went in for a simple removal of a toe which went well. To this day I believe due to his treatment in PH caused his death. He was apparently disturbing other patients at night so they sedated him the doctor ordering sedation over the phone from home not even seeing my husband to assess the need for further sedation. I am only sorry I didn’t have him discharged and take him home I wish This had come up re abuse of the elderly while he was still alive.

  • Final report released: The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

    Just over five years ago, the Julia Gillard leadership announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Courageous individuals – victims, journalists, lawyers and campaigners – came together to take on the powerful institutions that committed unquestionable acts of abuse and concealment. Years of investigations culminated earlier today, when the Royal Commission […]

    Read more

    Western Australia abolishes time limits for victims of abuse

    “Limitation laws have no place in a just society.” – Lisa Flynn, Shine Lawyers’ Abuse Law National Special Counsel.   The Western Australian Government today announced its first steps towards removing laws from the statute of limitations that have severely impacted abuse victims’ access to civil justice in Western Australia. “This is a significant achievement […]

    Read more

    What happens at schoolies doesn’t always stay at schoolies

    You’ve just finished your exams, you’re heading off on your first ‘adult’ holiday with your mates – without parental supervision and you’re signing up for a week of late nights, drinking and some pretty wicked parties. You’re hoping to make memories that will last a lifetime but what you DON’T want, are memories that last […]

    Read more

    Call Us Now

    Our friendly consultants are available to talk Monday to Friday, 8:15am to 6:00pm AEST.

    1800 618 851

    Live Chat

    Chat with Shine Lawyers through the livechat system without leaving your computer. No downloading, completely private and best of all - its easy to use.

    Start a live chat now

    Enquire Now

    Enquire now