June 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – a day for us to remind ourselves and one another that elder abuse is becoming a global issue. It’s a concern we must turn our minds to and do our part to help others understand the challenges of our elderly.
Practicing in the area of wills and estates law, elder abuse is an issue close to my heart. We receive a number of enquiries on a weekly basis from people who are concerned that elder abuse is taking place among their family or friends.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is not a ‘one size fits all’, and it is a form of domestic violence. It comes in many shapes and forms; financial abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect (whether intentional or unintentional) or physical or sexual violence.
Elder abuse could be a carer taking advantage of their patient. Or, it could be a family member applying pressure to an elderly relative to make certain financial decisions.
The effects of elder abuse are serious and severe. It may result in mental decline, weight loss, depression, distress, increased fear and anxiety or exacerbation of existing health conditions. When considering an elderly person any of these issues place unnecessary stress on the body which increases their susceptibility to new illnesses.
In many cases, elder abuse is unreported. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the unreported cases in Australia are around 100,000 per year. This means, we do not have a clear understanding of the true extent of elder abuse throughout Australia.
Elder abuse in Queensland can be reported to the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit who work with the victim to determine their situation, circumstances and needs. From there, they will liaise with the necessary service providers to assist the victim whether this is through providing advocacy, legal assistance, medical care or counselling.
Calls to the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit have seen a drastic increase from the 200 calls per year the helpline received when it commenced in 2000. In 2014-2015 the calls were nearly 1300.
This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I encourage you to take note of the resources we have available to us as a community to help raise the concern of elder abuse.
If you have any questions regarding elder abuse of any sort, please feel free to contact me.
Alternatively, below are a list of support services where contact can be made for help and confidential advice:
- Elder abuse helpline
Information, support and referrals for anyone experiencing abuse or witnessing the abuse of an older person.
Phone: 1300 651 192
- ADA Australia
Provides general advocacy support or guardianship advocacy to older Queenslanders experiencing discrimination, harm or abuse.
Phone: 1800 700 600
- Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland
Phone: 1300 130 670
Depression and anxiety information, advice and referrals.
Phone: 1300 224 636
- Crime Stoppers
Information provided by the community assists with crime fighting and crime prevention.
Phone: 1800 333 000
- DV Connect
Provides free help for women, men, children, and pets affected by domestic and family violence across Queensland.
Phone Women’s Line: 1800 811 811
Phone Men’s Line: 1800 600 636
Counselling services for anyone at any time.
Phone: 13 11 14
- Office of the Public Guardian
Protects the rights and interests of vulnerable Queenslanders, including adults with impaired decision making capacity.
Phone: 1300 653 187
- Public Trustee
Provides a range of services that help you plan for the future.
Phone: 1300 360 044
- Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Appoints guardians or administrators to act on behalf of adults with impaired decision making capacity.
Phone: 1300 753 228
- Seniors legal services
Free legal and support services for seniors.
- Sexual assault help services
Contact details for local support groups.
- Statewide sexual assault helpline
Counselling services for anyone who has been sexually abused or sexually assaulted at any time of their lives.
Phone: 1800 010 120
- Victims Counselling and Support Service
Counselling and support service provided to Queensland residents who have been personally affected by crime, either directly or indirectly.
Phone: 1300 139 703 (24 hours, 7 days)
- Victims Register
An information service established to inform victims of violent and sexual crimes about the status of the person who offended against them.
Phone: 1800 098 098
- Women’s Infolink
A free and confidential information and referral services about government agencies and community services supporting women.
Phone: 1800 177 577 (Mondays to Fridays 8 am to 6 pm).