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Published: 19 June 2017
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

World Elder Abuse Day - Report responds to Family Violence and Financial Abuse of older people

World Elder Abuse Day is a day for people and organisations around the world to recognise, respect and acknowledge the dignity and autonomy of older people.

This World Elder Abuse Day, which took place on 15 June 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission released a significant Report into Elder Abuse (“the Report”) including 43 recommendations for law reform to safeguard older people from abuse.

What is elder abuse?

According to the World Health Organisation, elder abuse is the abuse and neglect of older people. Elder abuse can take many forms including physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, abandonment and neglect.

A key factor in the definition of elder abuse is that the abuse has occurred in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust.

According to The Summary Report by the National Ageing Research Institute in partnership with Senior Rights Victoria dated June 2015 (“the June 2015 Report”), a study of elder abuse in Victoria found that 92.3% of alleged perpetrators of elder abuse are related to, or in a de facto relationship with, the older person.

The June 2015 Report also found that alleged perpetrators of elder abuse in Victoria are most commonly sons (40%), daughters (26.8%) and husbands (4.8%).

Is elder abuse family violence?

It is important to note that in Victoria, elder abuse can be a form of family violence. Family violence does not only have to occur within domestic relationships, but can occur within a familial relationship between parents and children.

Responding to elder abuse may require obtaining a Family Violence Intervention Order. Our experienced Family and Relationship Law Team can assist at any stage in responding to family violence.

The need to address financial abuse

The Report highlighted that financial abuse and psychological/emotional abuse are the most common forms elder abuse reported. A focus of the Report was therefore on safeguarding older people from financial abuse and exploitation through enduring appointments, family agreements, and wills.

Enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianship are legal documents which allow people to give a trusted person the power to make decisions on their behalf, should they be unable to or should they lose capacity to do so themselves. Powers of attorney must be exercised in the best interests of the person who has given the power.

The report recommended increasing safeguards against misuse of enduring appointments and developing national best practice guidelines for legal practitioners in relation to preparing and executing wills.

At Ryan Carlisle Thomas, we aim to provide services that prevent, recognise and respond to signs of elder abuse. We fully support these safeguards, which include enhancing witness requirements and ensuring record keeping.

A national response

It is crucial that any organisation involved in the care and wellbeing of older people address the issues surrounding elder abuse. The Report’s calls for a national response to elder abuse is imperative to create a safe society that ensures the dignity and autonomy of the older people who hold up our country.

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