June 15 is the United Nations internationally recognised World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. With an increasingly aging population elder abuse is predicted to increase and although much elder abuse goes unreported the World Health Organisation estimates that 15.7% of people who are 60 years or older living in the community may have experienced abuse. This figure is likely to be a lot higher for people who are living in institutional settings or people who suffer a physical or mental impairment.
It is important that we consider what the signs of elder abuse may be and what we can do to assist in its prevention.
Elder abuse is broken up in to 6 main categories, these include:
- Financial abuse;
- Social isolation;
- Emotional or psychological abuse;
- Physical abuse; and
- Sexual abuse.
While not comprehensive the signs of elder abuse can include:
- Anxiety, depression or grief.
- A change in a person’s behaviour, either becoming withdrawn or acting out in anger contrary to their typical behaviour.
- Malnourishment and weight loss, poor personal hygiene.
- A withdrawing from community activities or regular activity with friends and family.
- Unusual activity in bank accounts and having less money to spend.
- Being seen by multiple health practitioners, injuries not being properly treated and discrepancies between injuries and the explanations as to how it occurred.
People suffering elder abuse do not always recognise the restrictions or controlling nature of family members as abuse. We have had client’s tell us that it’s just what they have to do so that their child will talk to them or help them out. Additionally the fear of not being believed or what the unknown alternative to having family members assist them may be can result in persons not reporting elder abuse.
Elder abuse is not a specific crime in itself, but actions of an abuser may be criminal activity such as fraud, domestic violence, theft, bodily harm or extortion.
It is important to note that when approaching somebody with concerns in relation to abuse they may be suffering that care is given to their wishes. If the person does not want intervention then whilst they should be encouraged to seek that intervention or have somebody to assist them on their behalf while they have full decision capabilities this must also be considered. However if a person does not have the ability to make their own decisions then there is the risk that they are not aware of the abuse they are suffering.
Our team at Lynn and Brown Lawyers have assisted persons suffering elder abuse in many ways. Some examples of where we have assisted our clients include:
- revoking an Enduring Power of Attorney;
- responding to a third party requiring payment of money;
- providing advice regarding a person appointed under an Enduring Power of Attorney charging for services;
- representation in the State Administrative Tribunal hearings regarding the revocation of an Enduring Power of Attorney;
- providing advice regarding the appropriate use of an Enduring Power of Attorney;
- representation in the State Administrative Tribunal hearings regarding the appropriateness of a guardianship or administration order;
The team at Lynn and Brown Lawyers have the experience to assist you, or a person you care about.
About the authors:
This article has been co-authored by Alyce Martin and Steven Brown at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Alyce is an experienced Perth lawyer and a Senior Associate and practices in the areas of commercial law and probate & Wills. Steven is a Perth lawyer and director, and has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in commercial law, dispute resolution and estate planning.