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Elder Abuse isn’t just a problem… It’s OUR problem

Elder abuse is a global issue which affects the health, wellbeing, independence and human rights of millions of older people. It is an issue which deserves the attention of everyone in our community.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 2% and up to 14% of older people will experience some form of abuse in their lives globally.

While the numbers for Australia are yet to be fully realised, it is estimated that up to 6% to 10% of older Victorians experience elder abuse, with older women reported as 72% of those in Victoria suffering elder abuse.

Distressingly, more than 90% of elder abuse occurs within the family context. In these situations, it is most likely to be perpetrated by a son or daughter of the older person. Financial abuse and psychological or emotional abuse together are the most common forms of abuse reported by older Victorians.

Inheritance, Not an Entitlement

Launched on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Inheritance, Not an Entitlement campaign aimed at bringing awareness of and preventing financial elder abuse in the community.

The launch of the ‘6 Myths’ video begins to unpack some of the most common attitudes that many individuals have of their older parent, relative or an older person whom they are close to, or care for.

Elder abuse can often start with ‘benevolent ageism’ – where community attitudes of ‘protecting’ an older person begins to move away from respect for their independence and autonomy. Taken to the extreme it can move into harmful behaviour that affects the older person – physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, neglect, or a combination of these.
The campaign is a collaboration between Better Place Australia with the Respecting Seniors Network, Peninsula Legal Community Legal Centre, St Kilda Legal Service and the Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership (SMPCP).

6 Myths of Elder Abuse

Myth 1: They’re going to get the money in my will anyway - I suppose they might as well have it now.

Family members are only legally entitled to property they might inherit after their older relative dies, not before. Pressuring the older person to hand over assets is a form of financial elder abuse, and it is becoming an increasing problem in Australia.

Myth 2: My dad’s on a pension and has very little money. If someone takes advantage of them financially - it can’t be a big deal.

Pensioners and older people on limited incomes are in an even more vulnerable position when it comes to financial abuse. Limited resources mean that even a small amount of financial abuse can leave them destitute and even homeless.

Myth 3: My next door neighbour is very independent and well-educated about financial matters – his daughter couldn’t possibly be taking advantage of him.

Perpetrators of abuse can still prey on the older person’s emotions and abuse trust, or take advantage of their lack of familiarity with technology.

Myth 4: My friend doesn’t have any bruises – he can’t be being abused.

Elder abuse is much more than physical abuse. The most common forms of elder abuse are financial exploitation as well as emotional abuse – things that are rarely noticed just by looking at someone.

Myth 5: I care for my mum. It’s only right that I have access to her finances.

Caring for someone is no excuse to access an older person’s finances without their knowledge or consent. It is not appropriate to expect payment for their time can or the spending of any money belonging to the person that they are caring for.

Myth 6: Most elder abuse occurs in nursing homes.

Abuse can happen anywhere in the community and is often cloaked in a shroud of secrecy within trusted family members. We all need to learn the signs of how to detect elder abuse and to ask older people if they are okay.

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