Elder abuse is any action in a relationship of trust that results in harm to an older person. ‘This definition is consistent with Australian and international agreement about what constitutes abuse of older people and … it excludes relationships that, for example, are based on the exchange of money for services.’ (DHS 2009, p. 4)
A 2011 Western Australian report found an average prevalence of abuse of 4.6%, with the number of victims likely to almost double over the next 20 years. People with some form of decision-making disability are more likely to be subject to abuse. (See Clare et al. 2011; Wainer et al. 2010; and (DHS 2009).
Financial abuse covers the illegal use, improper use or mismanagement of a person’s property or financial resources by someone with whom they have a relationship implying trust (DHS 2009, p. 12).
Financial abuse is usually not a single event but a process that develops over time. It can be difficult to assess at what point a well-intentioned but ill-considered financial act tips over into abuse, or when borrowing money becomes misappropriation.
For example, if a person moves their parent or older relative in with them, accepts a Centrelink Carer’s Benefit and manages the older person’s pension and super payments while the older person recovers from an illness, this could become exploitative if the older person is not involved in decision-making, feels they are not cared for in the way they wished, and loses control of their assets.