The Dark Side!

Financial exploitation of the elderly by enduring attorneys has become a serious problem.  It has become apparent because of increasing levels of dementia and resulting incapacity of older Australians.

The problem arises for many reasons.  It is not helped by the fact that the person often appointed is a family member and there is a lack of understanding of the policy settings comprised in state legislation.  Arguably, the policy settings need review to provide greater protections for the elderly.

Financial abuse is the most prevalent abuse of the elderly and the biggest factor in this is the abuse by enduring attorneys.  A study by the Crime Research Centre at the University of Western Australia [1] (at p.1) - 

"Financial abuse was by far the most frequently mentioned type of abuse during the interviews and focus groups and it is also the most common type of abuse recorded in the agencies' quantitative data.  Misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney was the most frequently mentioned financial abuse issue, followed by the perceived responsibilities of Banks to increase protection of vulnerable older people's accounts."

The extent of elder abuse in WA or Australia is difficult to determine.  There is no universal or consistent understanding of what constitutes elder abuse.  What age would constitute an elder?  The characterisation of conduct becomes difficult as to whether it goes beyond private family matters into the realms of criminal conduct.  It is easy to see why there is a lack of uniformity in the collection of data in this area.

The same report stated (at p.2) -

Elder abuse lags far behind child abuse and domestic violence in terms of public recognition and social responses. A public education campaign is required to promote the importance of this issue and alert people about older people's rights and assistance available.

It all goes to emphasise the need to PLAN early and appropriately; to get good advice and implement sound decisions to plan for your future.


 [1] Examination of the Extent of Elder Abuse In Western Australia: a qualitative and quantitative investigation of existing agency policy, service responses and recorded data, Clare and ors, Crime Research Centre The University of Western Australia, April 2011