Premier Glady Berejiklian has announced she will appoint an Ageing and Disability Commissioner to find and stop abuse of older and disabled people at home and in the community from 1 July next year.
Currently reports of abuse are made through the state’s Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit and the NSW Ombudsman, but the new Commissioner will be given more powers to initiate investigations, follow up complaints, apply for search warrants and seize evidence.
Under the initiative, new Specialist Elder Abuse Officers will also be introduced in each NSW Police command to undertake investigations and pass information back to the Commissioners.
It’s a big step but one that we think is sadly needed.
Financial abuse the main concern
It’s estimated between two and 10 per cent of older Australians in Australia have experienced elder abuse, but many cases do go on reported – and most involve financial abuse.
This can range from someone being denied access to their own money, money being taken from a person’s accounts, pension or credit cards without permission, and being bullied into changing legal and financial documents such as their will and powers of attorney.
A recent study in Victoria found as many as one in five people there have experienced someone financially taking advantage of a vulnerable family member or friend.
There has also been several high-profile cases involving lawyers abusing their position under Powers of Attorney.
So how can you protect yourself?
The first step is to consider who you want to appoint as your attorney for financial matters and the executor of your will – this could be a loved one or an independent person or organisation.
You can find more advice for choosing decision makers including a Power of Attorney and an Enduring Guardian on agedcare101 here.
If you suspect someone you know may be experiencing elder abuse, MyAgedCare has a list of organisations in every state and territory you can call for help here.
You can also contact the national Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600 or visit their website here.