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Seniors: The Hidden Abuse

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It is a sad fact that abuse of the elderly has spread through our modern day society. The Uniting Church cites on their webpage (www.eapu.com.au), a definition of elder abuse :

“Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”

Elder abuse can be emotional or psychological, it can be physical or sexual… it can be neglect. It is another sad fact that much of the abuse comes from within the family unit, from close family members, in particular adult sons and daughters, spouses and other close relations.

Another common form of elder abuse is in the form of financial manipulations and pressures. Such as where the elderly person is invited to live with the son or daughter in their home. Often starting out as a genuine promise of care, this becomes confused when the older person provides a substantial financial contribution to the home. Proper structures should then be set up to acknowledge the financial contribution, and also to prepare the living area to support the requirements of the elder person such as the installation of suitable railings, easy access to bathrooms or to kitchen facilities, entertainment and a telephone, stair lifts and/or security, and arranging care service visits to name a few. In many instances these necessary requirements are not planned and not implemented. Then we might see instances of mixing of the financial abuse with verbal abuse when the son or daughter consider that mum or dad have not long on this earth, making statements like “so you’ll be dead soon and you don’t need all that money anyway”, followed by a demand for more money. The son or daughter may plan to give up work which they can’t do without the parent giving them more money now. “We’re looking after you, we deserve it”, they might say.

Those suffering abuse are often weighed down with immense feelings of obligation and of shame, or fear of retaliation from family members, or fears of being ostracised or excluded from the family, the family home or family events. Some people may not even realise they are being abused, and it is also not uncommon for some of our abused elderly to actually consider that maybe it’s their fault.

Is important to realise that if you are experiencing distress or feel under pressure from family or friends, it is not your fault! There are options open to you, and there are a number of ways that you can be helped and supported as you deserve. No one has the right to abuse or pressure you, or to force you to undertake actions that are detrimental to your well-being or against your wishes. You need your health and you need your money to help you get through your later years, and you deserve and have every right to enjoy your later years to the best of your ability. You do not owe your children are living and in today’s society they have no right to expect that from you!

There are a number of agencies and hotlines, counselling and support services and lawyers like myself who are only too willing to assist you in your time of need. And there are options available to you in the form of crisis care, community support services and respite facilities. As a last resort there are intervention options of a legal nature such as to matters of financial or severe physical abuse.

Always get independent legal professional advice before making any significant financial or legal decisions. You should always get legal advice alone and in confidence. It is important you choose your own lawyer or financial advisor who will act only for you, and avoid at all costs the advisers which a family member might preferably recommend to you.

Should you wish to discuss your experiences or learn more about available options I invite you to call me for a free consultation. To the less mobile of our senior members of the community, I extend this offer with the convenience and benefit of a visit to a place of your choosing where you feel you may talk freely and in confidence.
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