Don’t cross the line: taking action against elder abuse

Dr Tracey West's study found financial elder abuse is the most common type of elder abuse. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
Dr Tracey West’s study found family conflict and isolation are top risk factors for elder abuse.

Griffith University in partnership with ADA Law, has launched a new suite of resources on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) to assist in preventing elder abuse.

Developed from elder abuse research published by Griffith University in January this year, the study found family conflict and isolation to be the top risk factors for financial elder abuse.

Griffith Business School lecturer Dr Tracey West said the resources included information aimed at helping finance and wills and estate planning professionals such as financial advisors and planners and solicitors.

“It’s important that these professionals are aware of what financial elder abuse looks like, when their elderly clients are at risk, and how to take action to help them understand their rights and to provide support,’’ she said.

“The research shows most cases can be traced back to family members and most common contributing factors are when there is a history of giving money or loans, or delegating financial matters.”

The resources are the outcome of the study and provide practical tips and relevant contacts for referral.

Financial elder abuse is the most common form of abuse, accounting for 68.7% of cases in the study, and there have been reports of an increase in cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO of ADA Australia, Geoff Rowe, said that the increase was not surprising.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the top risk factors for some older people, with more time being spent at home and increased financial pressures on family members.

“The question is, and the focus for these resources is, what action can we take? We being the key word — recognising and standing up to elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility.

“It’s important that people understand the types of assistance available. Victims generally will not want to prosecute family members for wrongdoing, however, there are mediation, advocacy and family counselling services that can assist with negotiating a healthier arrangement. These services are confidential, and most are at no cost,” Mr Rowe said.

Griffith University is currently working with ADA Law to expand the study and to publish data mapped to local government areas. Taking Action on Elder Abuse resources are available online.