Christmas is a joyful time for many, but as we know navigating the holiday season can be fraught with challenges. Whilst financial elder abuse may not be top of mind, at this time of year often complex family dynamics sit alongside pressures to overspend, and with a dousing of alcohol added to the mix, these combined forces may create the perfect storm for our most vulnerable people.
As both our ageing population and house prices continue to rise, increased pressure is being placed on older Australians, often by their adult children, to provide financial support to fill the gaps of modern life. This pressure has been dubbed ‘inheritance impatience’ and is a form of financial elder abuse.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect. WHO estimates that 15.7% of people 60 years and older are subjected to abuse.”
For some, Christmas is a difficult time. Family members may feel stressed or believe they are entitled to access part of their parents’ wealth early. As a result, older people can fall victim to family pressure at gatherings around the holidays.
Indeed, according to The Senior, “financial and psychological are the two most common forms of elder abuse and 60 per cent of perpetrators are sons and daughters.” These adult children are often relying on the assumption that in time the money will be theirs, and that they are simply speeding up the process by approaching parents who are still alive.
Financial elder abuse is complex and can range from Power of Attorney’s placing their own interests before those whom they are acting for, to pressuring an older person for a loan. Christmas is a time where we must protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Keep an ear out for conversations where older persons are being persuaded to make financial decisions that don’t serve to benefit them. Keep a record of events and, if appropriate, help the older person seek assistance from a relevant organisation.
If you or someone you know is a victim of elder abuse call the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline (previously called the Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit) on 1800 628 221. For further reading visit our blog Should reporting of elder abuse be mandatory?