There is currently a gap in the powers of public advocates (such as Adult Guardian in Queensland) to investigate reported elder abuse.
Although the Adult Guardian is able to investigate reported abuse in instances where someone has lost capacity, they have no power to act if the person still has capacity to look after their own affairs.
Obviously elder abuse can occur in all situations, so it can be quite frustrating for a person trapped in this ‘loophole’ because although they may be experiencing abuse they have no services available to assist them in preventing the abuse from continuing.
The recently published ALRC Elder Abuse Discussion Paper highlights this problem and suggests that the investigative powers of the Adult Guardian (and similar bodies in other states) should be widened.
The ALRC is proposing that the power to investigate should instead be available where the elderly person is ‘unable to protect themselves’. This would cover situations where they lack the mental capacity to look after themselves but also if they are physically isolated (for instance, in a nursing home with no access to a telephone). However it is arguable that this still does not go far enough.
The ALRC is currently invited submissions to be made concerning the proposals contained in the Elder Abuse Discussion Paper (cut-off date is 27 February 2017). The final report will be presented to the Attorney-General in May 2017.