Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and to be provided with appropriate care as they age. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for the unacceptably high number of Australians who are experiencing elder abuse.
What is Elder Abuse?
Any act that causes harm to an elderly person, whether physical, sexual or of any other kind, and that occurs within a relationship of trust, is elder abuse.
Much like other forms of domestic or family violence, elder abuse can be difficult to spot because of the context in which it happens. It can occur anywhere, but it most frequently takes place under the cover of the elderly person’s home or in an aged care facility. It is not perpetrated by strangers but by family members, friends, carers or other trusted persons.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many different forms including:
A single form of elder abuse may occur in isolation, but elder abuse usually includes several forms of abuse in combination. The forms most commonly exposed in Australia are psychological and financial abuse.
Psychological abuse includes behaviour that seeks to bully, intimidate or humiliate the elderly person. Examples of psychological abuse provided by the World Health Organisation include threatening to send them to an aged care home, withholding affection, denying them access to grandchildren or other loved ones, deliberately isolating them from friends and other support systems and persistently accusing them of having dementia.
Financial abuse has been defined as “the illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s property or finances.” Abusers adopt methods that vary from taking advantage of their trusted relationship with the older person, to misusing positions such as Power of Attorney, to outright deceiving or coercing them.
For example, an adult child may force their parent to make changes to their Will, prematurely take control of their finances, steal their identity, incur expenses in their name or sell their property without consent.