The holiday season can be a stressful and emotional time, so it’s important to keep an eye out for the older people in your life. One in ten people 65 and over will experience some form of elder abuse.
Elder abuse can come in many forms, it’s more than physical abuse and often people will experience more than one type of abuse. Financial abuse, along with, and often combined with, psychological abuse is probably the most common form of elder abuse. In New Zealand it is estimated that approximately half of all elder abuse cases involved financial abuse.
The World Health Organisation defines financial elder abuse (FEA) as:
The illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or resources of the older person.
This sits within the generally accepted definition of elder abuse, which is:
Any act or omission that results in harm to an older person which occurs in a relationship where there is an implication of trust.
Financial abuse may be without the older person’s consent or if consent is given, it may be under pressure. Financial abuse ranges from illegal use of money to coercion. Forcing an older person into spending their money on a present for someone is a form of elder abuse, and that’s not OK. Threats may be made such as, “If you don’t give us what we want you won’t see the grandchildren.” Other examples include demanding the PIN number of bank cards; family/whanau members ‘living off’ the older person (often moving in and taking over), manipulation of the sale of property to disadvantage the older person. Sometimes family member convince themselves that as they may inherit from you in the future, that they are entitled to your money or assets now. They are not.
Those who commit elder abuse are often someone close to their victim. 76% of abusers are family members of the victim. The majority of cases of elder abuse will go unreported. All too often this is to protect abusers who are family and whānau members. In many cases older people do not see themselves as victims or at-risk.
What to do if you, or someone you know is a victim of Financial Abuse?
Click here to find information about a local Elder Abuse Response provider. A new Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) set up on 1 July 2017 is a confidential 24 hour free helpline phone: 0800 32 668 65. Registered nurses will listen and advise anyone (no matter who it is) who needs information or support about elder abuse. If needed, callers will be referred to local elder abuse services to get help. If there is immediate danger call the police on 111.