Elder abuse can be of a broad range; physical, psychological, emotional or financial. The abuse can also happen when others fail to act and therefore mistreat or neglect an older person.
Elders are generally defined to be aged 65 and over. While some have absolutely no physical or mental impairment, others may have obvious vulnerabilities which may result in weak decision making capacity and higher dependence on others.
What does it look like?
Elder abuse usually happens amongst relationships of trust. It can sometimes be difficult to spot because of the circumstances under which it happens.
Elder abuse can occur anywhere. It most often happens under the ‘safety’ of the elderly person’s home, and is usually caused by other family members, friends, carers, or trusted persons. Because of this, it can be very difficult to recognize.
Psychological abuse includes targeted behavior that bullies, intimidates or humiliates the elderly person. Examples provided by the World Health Organisation includes the threat to send the elderly to an aged care home, denying them time with their grandchildren/loved ones and repeatedly highlighting their physical deficiencies, such as repeatedly accusing them of having dementia without proper diagnosis.
The most common form of elder abuse is financial. This looks like someone taking advantage of their trusted relationship with the elder to misuse positions such as Power of Attorney, forcing them to make changes to their will, to incur expenses in their name or sell their home without their permission.
Some will help themselves to monies belonging to the elderly person with the thought that this is a ‘gift’ that they would ‘receive anyway’ once the elder passed away. This is not a gift; it is theft.
How do you know if you’re being abused?
Well, if it feels wrong, it probably is.
Let us explain. If a certain situation makes you feel trapped or under pressure, please know to question it. Have a think about whether you might be at a disadvantage or being taken advantage of because of your age. Have the courage to tell someone about it.
How does it happen?
When we age, it naturally becomes more difficult to do tasks that used to be easy. We suffer disease and ill-health. We are sometimes bound to rely on the aid of other people. Often, this involves the people we live with, usually family or close friends.
In some cases, without realising it, the people we lean on can begin to resent us for it. However, there is no excuse for elder abuse.
The abuse of the elderly is a very serious family violence matter and should not be tolerated. Elderly people are vulnerable, and to abuse them for personal gains is no better than unconscionable conduct – it’s despicable.
It is so important that we understand the legal assistance that is available.
Laws to Help Out
Many of the actions that would normally be considered elder abuse are already crimes in the ACT.
Under the Crimes Act 1900, conduct that endangers life, negligently causes serious injury, assault, and fraud, for example, are already crimes (sections 27 and 28).
Assess yourself whether you are a subject to any offence from the Australasian Legal Information Institute website.
United Legal provides advice on accommodation options for elderly persons. We can also advise on how financial contributions that are made from an elder person to a carer should be recorded. You can never be too careful.
For our legal support services Contact us at (02) 6295 2283
or visit us at
54-56 Townsville St, Fyshwick ACT 2609