There was shock across the world when a former business manager of the late comic book legend, Stan Lee, 95, was arrested on financial elder abuse charges. It seemed extraordinary that such a respected and successful person was taken advantage of in this way.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society.
Elder abuse, whilst seldom talked about, is more common than we know. It may be perpetrated by a family member, friend, neighbour or carer, and may take various forms, such as physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.
Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) says there is a growing acknowledgement of elder abuse as a form of family violence, but there is still a big disconnect when it comes to the highest incidence of abuse – financial.
Research undertaken by SRV has shown that financial abuse by a family member can result in an older person losing their home or their savings. Older Victorians, especially older women, are finding it increasingly difficult to find safe and stable accommodation and may be at risk of homelessness.
Elder abuse often leaves the victim ineligible for other forms of assistance, such as supported accommodation, due to assets they hold, or their bank balance. This is often not enough to pay for affordable private rental, which, according to SRV has declined 40% overall in the last decade.
While there is a residential aged care system it exists primarily to meet people’s care needs. Older people who are in good health and don’t have specific care needs may not be eligible for residential aged care. Also, it may not be what the older person wants, and it shouldn’t be their only option just because they find themselves priced out of the rental market.
Catholic Social Services Victoria member, VMCH, believe older people have a wealth of knowledge and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The purpose of World Elder Abuse Day is to raise awareness that it exists as a real issue in our community, and it can affect the livelihood of our most vulnerable residents. Our job, in residential aged care, is to work on how to best support the individual, to ensure they are safe while respecting their choices. Sometimes the best we can do is be ready to listen.
There is a range of online resources about Elder Abuse. For more information, click here.