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How to spot elder abuse

He may have created some of the most well-known super heroes, but in his last days there was no one to save the day for Stan Lee. It’s alleged that Stan Lee's business manager, who was arrested on elder abuse charges, took control of the comic writer’s life in his final months. Keya Morgan is accused of taking over his finances and restricting access to family and friends before Lee’s death in November 2018.

In Australia, elder abuse has also become topical with a light being shone on aged care facilities by the Royal Commission into Aged Care, currently underway. Meanwhile, the federal government is trying to tackle the issue by launching a national helpline to support victims, the helpline began operation in June 2019 and offers advice and assistance to victims and their families.

The issue with elder abuse is that it can be insidious and not always easy to recognise, especially if an older family member is in the care of a facility or a family member. Types of elder abuse include:

  • Physical: an older person may be being physically assaulted or restrained.
  • Emotional: yelling, screaming and hurtful words are all types of abuse. Isolating someone from their family and friends can be another form of emotional abuse.
  • Financial: an older person may trust someone to take care of their finances for them and may be victims of theft or coercion around their money. Financial forms of abuse can also include pressure being put on someone to change their Will. During the Royal Commission there has been allegations of people being been overcharged or double-billed for healthcare.
  • Neglect: unfortunately, older people can be vulnerable to neglect. They may not receive help with hygiene, food, taking medications or being moved or turned if they are bed bound.

How to spot elder abuse

It can be difficult to recognise signs of elder abuse, especially if the person has dementia or memory problems. There are some signs that are important to be aware of, especially if you notice more than one of the below indicators. The person is:

  • confused, withdrawn and not as lively as they once were
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • unclean, their hair is unwashed, clothes are dirty and may have food remnants on face and clothing
  • violent or agitated
  • drowsy or appears over-medicated
  • developing unexplained bruises, cuts or scars
  • developing bedsores or the like
  • unusual spending habits or banking transactions

If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of elder abuse it’s important to act and call the police or relevant authorities in your state.

For more advice and information call the national helpline 1800 ELDERhelp (1800 353 374), it's a freecall.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: June 13, 2019.

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