What to do if you suspect Elder Abuse?

We are hearing more and more about elder abuse in the media every day. We also know that times of increased family pressure (like the festive season) often leads to more cases of reported elder abuse. But what is elder abuse? What are the signs? And what can we do about it?

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse captures a very wide range of behavior and, according to the Queensland Police can include following in respect of an elderly person:

  • Physical restraint or abuse. This can occur in private and institutional settings.
  • Neglecting physical and emotional needs. This might include obstructing the access to care.
  • Intimidation.
  • Coercion, such as forcing changes to a Will or threatening being moved out of a family home and into aged care.
  • Disallowing autonomous decisions
  • Selling property without consent.
  • Misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by improperly taking money or property.
  • Denying access or control of funds or property.

What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Queensland Police also consider the following to be signs of elder abuse:

  • Fear of others.
  •  Irritability, emotional fragility or unexplained anxiousness.
  •  Depressed, apathetic or withdrawn behaviour.
  •  A change in sleeping or eating habits.
  •  Rigid posture and avoidance of physical contact.
  •  Avoidance in eye contact and eyes darting.
  •  Verbalisation of contradictory statements unrelated to mental confusion.
  •  Reluctance to talk openly.
  •  Financial stress or bills going unpaid.
  •  Poor personal hygiene.
  •  Weight loss.
  •  Poor or inadequate presentation.
  •  Unexplained injuries.
  •  A sudden decrease in socialising.

What should you do if you suspect Elder Abuse?

It is important to appreciate that elder abuse is a criminal matter. This means, your first port of call should always be the police. If there is an immediate risk of harm, you should immediately call 000.

However, sometimes elder abuse is complex and does not involve overt physical violence. You might therefore be unsure if you are witnessing or experiencing elder abuse. In those cases, you may want to first make a confidential call to the Elder Abuse Hotline (available between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) on 1300 651 192 to discuss what you have seen or experienced. You can find out more about the Elder Abuse Hotline here.

Are there any other remedies?

Provided you qualify for assistance, we recommend reaching out to the Seniors Legal and Support Service, which has number of centres across Queensland.

People are inevitably left worse off as a result of elder abuse. If you or someone you know has experienced physical abuse and have already made a police compliant, you should reach out to one of our personal injury lawyers to see if you can make a claim for compensation.

If you or someone you know has experienced some form of financial abuse, you should reach out to one of our estates planning or commercial lawyers to help get your affairs back in order.

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