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Being vigilant is
everyone’s responsibility

An elderly Melbourne couple were robbed of $35,000 of their savings over a nine-month period by their gambling-addicted eldest daughter.

The gambler’s mother was showing signs of dementia and she offered to take her shopping twice a week to give her father some relief time. But the daughter used the shopping trips to drain her parents’ bank account of all but $5000.

While planning what to wear to her granddaughter’s wedding, an 80-year-old woman unknowingly signed papers which handed over ownership of her house to her granddaughter.

A frail elderly woman thought she had finally found peace from her life of domestic violence but was forced to move into a nursing home after her son used her money to buy himself a house.

An elderly woman was told by her daughter to sell her home and move in with her, with the $400,000 proceeds going towards the building of a granny flat and other renovations. There was no written agreement. Then the relationship broke down and the elderly woman was told to move out – with no money and no other home to go to.

These examples of financial abuse toward elders are all recorded cased that happened in Australia in the last three years. Elder abuse is everyone’s business. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, 2022, Grampians Health invites everyone to ‘stir a cuppa with seniors’ to show your support and commit to being vigilant to such actions.

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust, such as a family member, relative or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.

The repercussions are wide ranging and the health, well-being, independence and human rights of the older person can all be affected.

Last year, UnitingCare Queensland’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit found that 96 per cent of abuse happened within family relationships – 71 per cent by sons and daughters. More than half were living together.

In about a quarter of cases, the perpetrators were providing care the victim was dependent upon. In more than a third of cases, abuse occurred daily. Just under 20 per cent of cases had been experiencing abuse for 10 years or more.

Sadly, the biggest barrier to action was not fear of further harm – in 53 per cent of cases it was to protect the perpetrator and the victim’s relationship with them.

Grampians Health director of Aged Services at Horsham and Dimboola Sarah Kleinitz said elder abuse was present in Wimmera and Grampians communities.

“People should not assume this is a metropolitan issue because there are plenty examples of it happening in our region and the most common form is financial abuse,” she said.

“That often involves the transfer of ownership of farms where elderly parents will pass the farm onto their children under the agreement that they will get continued support and the support doesn’t eventuate.

“Financial abuse at smaller levels are also prevalent and can be just as harmful but there is also social abuse.

“That can be where grandchildren are used as bribery or inducement. You hear of cases where a daughter or son can threaten their parents with not being able to see their grandchildren if they don’t comply with them.”

Ms Kleinitz said recognising elder abuse was everyone’s responsibility.

“There are signs to watch for such as the elderly victim being withdrawn or afraid, particularly in the presence of the abuser,” she said.

“With financial abuse it might be that they can’t pay their bills or they don’t seem to have enough food or clothing. With physical abuse it could be unexplained bruising or injury.

“But it’s really about if you know the person and they don’t seem quite right, then you should question why that is.”