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Monday, August 15, 2022

Elderly financial abuse under recognised and victims reluctant to report: new research

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Financial abuse of the elderly by family members or partners is bundled up with other forms of family and domestic violence, leaving some unable to recognise it and creating barriers against support, a new report says. 

The most common financial abuse of older Australians includes misusing or stealing money, controlling funds, or coercing older people to sign legal documents to gain control over finances or property.

What we identified is that the majority of reported elder abuse cases are in fact domestic and family violence-related and other family members, in particular adult children, as well as intimate partners, are the most likely perpetrators of economic, financial, and other forms of abuse of older people.

UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network co-convenor, Jan Breckenridge

Victims are often reluctant to disclose the abuse, according to the UNSW report, Understanding Economic and Financial Abuse and Older People in the Context of Domestic and Family Violence.

Family members or intimate partners are the main perpetrators,  UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network co-convenor Professor Jan Breckenridge said.

“Many people don’t think about older people in the context of intimate partner relationships so don’t think of domestic and family violence as relevant to older people,” she said.

“What we identified is that the majority of reported elder abuse cases are in fact domestic and family violence-related and other family members, in particular adult children, as well as intimate partners, are the most likely perpetrators of economic, financial, and other forms of abuse of older people.”

The use of the broad term ‘elder abuse’ for victims can lead to details of financial abuse, control or manipulation not being recognised, a review of literature found.

This means the right solutions are not offered, Breckenridge said.

Banks have a key role to play in identifying and responding to economic and financial abuse of older people but along with aged care providers may lack experience in dealing with the matter.

Male adult children may have a sense of entitlement to their parents’ assets, exerting power and control over their parents and disposing of their parents’ assets without their approval.

There is some evidence traditional notions of males leading financial management may enable economic and financial abuse of the elderly.

“There is no problem with these (traditional) arrangements if they are mutually agreed and mutually beneficial,” Breckenridge said.

“These arrangements can hide perpetrators’ tactics of financial and economic abuse and can mean that an older person is not aware of the financial abuse and/or is trapped by other tactics used by the perpetrator.”

Patriarchal attitudes around inheritance following the death of a parent was also a contributing factor.

“Male adult children may have a sense of entitlement to their parents’ assets, exerting power and control over their parents and disposing of their parents’ assets without their approval,” she said.

The report recommends providing legal advice and resources to elderly people and mandatory reporting of financial abuse of elders.

It also recommends family mediation for preventing or responding to financial abuse, and that health and legal professionals are trained to detect and react to economic abuse.

More research on the effects of financial abuse on older people is needed to develop appropriate responses, the report noted.

It is the fifth in a series of reports from the network and Commbank.

Click here to read the report. A summary of key findings is also available here.

To read our Aged Care News feature on elder abuse from Elder Abuse Awareness Day back in June, click here.

AAP

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