Today’s older people are the richest in history, and the proportion of elderly in the population is increasing dramatically. This generation will produce the biggest transfer of wealth between generations the world has seen. The unfortunate consequence of this is an increase in financial abuse of elders. Authorities report a spike in the number of elderly Australians, who are financially abused. One of the more alarming aspects about this growing phenomena is we only see what’s been reported and what’s been found and discovered. There is a significant concern, regarding what goes unreported, or what’s hidden, and what people don’t know.
Financial abuse isnâ€™t necessarily outright theft. It includes illegal or improper use of an older personâ€™s money, household goods, property, or assets without permission. Examples may include:
- Misusing an elderâ€™s ATM, credit card, personal cheques, or accounts;
- Going shopping for groceries and not returning the change;
- Denying the elder person the right to access their personal funds;
- Forging an older person’s signature; and
- Persuading an older person to sign a document through deception, coercion, or undue influence.
It is not only criminal scams inflicting the abuse. Research by Monash UniversityÂ showsÂ widowed women over the age of 75 are most vulnerable, and the most common perpetrators of this abuse are family members, usually sons and daughters, followed by others closest to the older person. Unfortunately, people in some families are not prepared to wait. Often, they stand to inherit and feel justified in taking what they believe is “almost” or “rightfully” theirs. Another factor may be the fear the older family member will get sick and use their savings, depriving the abuser of an inheritance.
The most common form of abuse is children taking control of their parent’s income. The children will often commingle their parentâ€™s income with their own, by placing it into their own bank account. It starts with the best intentions: The child will protect and manage those funds for their parents. Over time, their finances get confusing, and it is less clear who owns what. With time, the distinction between parentâ€™s money and childâ€™s money becomes blurred. The parent’s money is now their money, and with the typical stresses associated with debts and mortgages, it is not uncommon for children to use their parent’s income to supplement their own. The ultimate consequence is the parent’s accounts go unpaid. As an example, one of the biggest applicants to the Protective Tribunal are aged care facilities, who seek the appointment of an independent administrator, because their aged care fees have been unpaid for some time. This is usually a result of a child not paying the fees.