The United Nations is aiming to raise global awareness of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue by marking the 15th of June each year as ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’ (WEAAD).

As the percentage of the elderly increases due to the declining birth rate and people living longer, sadly many more elderly people are being subject to abuse. The abuse is often at the hands of friends, family or carers who abuse their relationship of trust.  Elder abuse can be psychological, emotional, financial, physical, sexual, or neglect.

A common example of elder abuse is an abuse of powers given to a person under a Power of Attorney.  There have been instances of appointed attorney’s claiming that they did not understand their role and obligations and that subsequently fail to act in the donor’s best interests.  It is important to remember when you appoint an attorney, that the person is able to act in your best interests and has the ability to act honestly, with diligence, and to avoid any situation of abuse or neglect.

Australia has enacted the Aged Care Act, which contains mandatory reporting laws for suspected physical and sexual abuse for seniors living in residential aged care by government funded services.  However, the Aged Care Act does not protect the majority of older people, who are not accessing government-funded services. 

Critics of the Aged Care Act say that Australia’s criminal laws should be reviewed in light of the low rate of prosecutions for elder abuse. There are echoed calls for power of attorney and guardianship laws to be re-examined at the state level.     

Both Canada and the USA have enacted legislation to protect the elderly from abuse.  Australia is yet to enact similar legislation.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be celebrated throughout the globe on 15 June this year.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing Elder Abuse it is important to know help is available.  The Elder Abuse Helpline can be contacted for free and confidential advice by telephoning 1300 651 192 (Queensland only) or (07) 3867 2525 (rest of Australia). Seniors Legal and Support Service (SLASS) in Queensland provide free legal advice, information and social work services for people over 60.  SLASS Brisbane (07) 3214 6333.

This article contains information of a general nature only and is not specific to your circumstances. This is not legal advice and should not be relied upon without independent legal or financial advice, specific to your circumstances.