Highlighting Financial Abuse on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. While it’s a topic no one likes to think about, statistics prove it’s something we all need to learn more about. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in six people over the age of 60 has experienced some form of abuse. Because older don’t always report abuse, it’s difficult to know for sure how many seniors are impacted.
The stress associated with the COVID-19 crisis has made the problem worse. Many researchers believe the isolation and financial uncertainty many lived with during the pandemic likely pushed the number even higher than in previous years.
What Is Elder Abuse?
When people hear the word abuse, most associate it with violence and physical harm.
In reality, there are many different types of elder abuse. An older person is considered to be a victim of elder abuse if they’ve experienced any of the following:
- Social abuse, abandonment or neglect
- Verbal and psychological abuse
- Mistreatment and neglect
- Physical harm and abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial exploitation or abuse
Women and adults with dementia are believed to be at highest risk for elder abuse. Unfortunately, it’s not commonly strangers who commit these crimes. Research sadly shows that adult children and spouses are often the abusers. Money is frequently an underlying factor.
Signs of Financial Abuse in Elders
How can you tell if an ageing family member is the victim of financial abuse? Unlike physical abuse, where you might see bruising or other injuries, if an older person is experiencing financial abuse, the warning signs can be more difficult to detect.
- Withdrawing from social activities: One red flag that something is wrong is when an outgoing older adult begins to withdraw socially. It can sometimes be a sign that a person close to them is taking their money while also preventing them from spending time alone with friends and family, which is known as social abuse
- Calls from debt collectors: If a senior has fallen victim to a financial crime, such as a scam or identity theft, they may lack the resources to pay their bills. Many are embarrassed to admit what’s happened and feel too ashamed to ask loved ones for help. Overdue bills and calls from creditors about delinquent accounts can be a sign of a bigger problem that needs further investigation.
- Decline in standard of living: Many older people live on a tight budget during retirement. If an ageing family member seems to be experiencing a significant change in lifestyle, it could be a warning sign of financial abuse. While they might just be tightening their belt or saving for a special event or occasion, it could also be an indication that someone has taken money from them.
- A new, unlikely friend: If an ageing loved one’s spouse has died, it’s understandable that they may be looking for companionship. Online dating is an easy way to meet new people. While no one wants to assume the worst, if a new friend or partner seems like an unlikely match, it’s worth keeping an eye out. It may be necessary to discreetly monitor the senior’s finances or find other ways to determine if the new friend seems to be benefitting financially.
If You See Something, or Suspect Something, SAY Something.
If you need help or want to seek support on behalf of someone you know contact Seniors Rights Victoria confidential helpline: 1300 368 821. More information can be found on the Senior Rights Victoria website.
Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.
Mayflower provides a safe and supportive environment for older people, with a wide range of social and meaningful activities - to reduce feelings of isolation and to empower residents.
Our team members are extensively trained to identify, and report concerns regarding elder abuse and have strict guidelines and obligations, ensuring the safety of all in our care.
For more information about elder abuse, visit the Australian World Elder Abuse Day Website.
If you are looking for more information on how to prevent the older adults in your life from becoming a victim, Let’s Protect Our Older People – Because There’s No Excuse For Elder Abuse might be of interest. The article shares information to help guard against abuse, as well as a way to confidentially report concerns if you suspect an older person is being abused.