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Compassionate Advice. Low-Conflict Resolutions.

We know that elder abuse is often confusing, complex and overwhelming.

That’s why our solicitors focus on you – understanding your perspective, giving you the information you need, and supporting you as you move forward.

Stopping abuse doesn’t have to involve police or courts. Our low-conflict approach focuses on protecting you while still preserving your relationships with loved ones. And, as the oldest law firm on the Gold Coast, we know how to effectively resolve matters through channels like QCAT and the Office of the Public Guardian.

Book a consultation to find out how we can help prevent and stop elder abuse.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any act that occurs within a relationship of trust that causes harm or distress to someone aged over 65.

It can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or financial in nature, and may be perpetrated by family members, friends, carers, or other trusted people.

While elder abuse often occurs at home, it can also take place in locations such as aged care facilities and hospitals.

Examples of Elder Abuse

Psychological Abuse

Threats, coercive or controlling behaviour, and name-calling

Financial Abuse

Withholding access to bank accounts, forcing someone to ‘gift’ money or possessions, and non-contribution to shared expenses

Social Abuse

Denying transport to visit friends and preventing access to family members

Neglect

Failing to provide sufficient food, water, shelter, clothing, medication, and other essentials

Physical Abuse

Pushing, kicking, and forcibly restraining someone

Sexual Abuse

Unwanted physical contact, sexually charged comments, or being exposed to pornography

3,430

elder abuse helpline calls annually

80.7%

of abuse reports relate to close relationships

Psychological

abuse is the most common form of abuse

50.3%

of victims have care needs

Statistics are for the 2020–2021 period in Queensland and are sourced from the EAPU.

How Can a Lawyer Help With Elder Abuse?

Financial abuse is the second-most common form of elder abuse, affecting around 63% of victims in Queensland.

It often happens through the misuse of legal appointments such as enduring power of attorney.

Many abusers also unduly influence Will-making, gift-giving, and other forms of estate planning.

A lawyer can help you prevent or stop abuse by taking away an abuser’s ability to control finances – for example, by removing their power of attorney, or creating structures that minimise their access.

Your solicitor can also help you understand your rights, give your independent advice, and even act as an impartial attorney for you.

Elder Abuse Prevention Services

Guardianship and Administrator Applications

Urgent Interim Order Applications

Advice About Contesting Applications

Revising Enduring Powers of Attorney

Revising Wills

Reviewing Aged Care Documents

Revising Advance Health Directives

Strategic Estate Planning

Is Elder Abuse a Crime in Queensland?

Elder abuse isn’t a crime in and of itself. Often, though, elder abuse falls under the definition of domestic and family violence – which is a crime. Under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld), relevant types of abuse include:

  • physical or sexual abuse;
  • emotional or psychological abuse;
  • economic abuse;
  • threats;
  • coercion; and
  • any other behaviour that controls, dominates, or causes fear for personal safety or wellbeing or that of someone else.

Physical and sexual assault, as well as financial crimes such as theft, are also criminal offences in Queensland.

Elder Abuse FAQs

Different kinds of elder abuse may have different signs. In general, older adults experiencing abuse can seem scared, anxious, unusually quiet or withdrawn, terse or irritable, confused, depressed, less social than normal, and avoidant of eye contact and/or physical touch.

Signs of physical abuse include bruising, wounds, unusual stiffness or pain, and unexplained injuries or ‘accidents’. Sexual abuse may have similar indicators, as well as signs such as unexplained STIs, internal injuries, and genital injuries. 

Financial abuse is often more subtle, but there may still be symptoms. These can include an older person not having enough money for essentials, not being aware of what’s happening with their finances or credit cards, making large investments or withdrawals that benefit someone else, or changing their financial habits.

The most common form of elder neglect is malnutrition and dehydration. Signs of mild to moderate malnutrition and dehydration include fatigue, confusion, headaches, sunken eyes and cheeks, more frequent skin tears, slower injury healing, unexplained weight loss, and dry mouth (xerostomia).

Keep in mind that every situation is different. Sometimes, there won’t be any signs of abuse. To minimise a loved one’s vulnerability, talk to and visit them regularly, make sure they feel comfortable discussing things with you, and get independent professionals (such as doctors, psychologists and lawyers) to monitor their physical, mental and financial health.

Because elder abuse is often committed by family members, many older people don’t report it. They may feel worried that the perpetrator will get into legal trouble, or concerned that, by reporting the abuse, they’ll only make things worse.

If a loved one doesn’t want to talk to the police, anonymous helplines can be helpful. The Elder Abuse Helpline, for example, lets you express your concerns in a confidential setting. It’s free, anyone can call, and you don’t need to have evidence of abuse – the helpline support workers are there to listen to your story, explain your right to safety, dignity, independence and respect, and give you actionable advice.

You can also talk to a solicitor about legal strategies for stopping elder abuse. In cases involving financial abuse, for example, removing the perpetrator’s access to the victim’s finances can end the abuse without the police getting involved.

In scenarios involving domestic violence or physical/sexual assault, we strongly recommend you make a complaint to the police. There’s never any excuse for elder abuse, and it’s unlikely that it will just ‘stop’ without police involvement.

Financial abuse can happen to anyone, but older adults may be more at risk. Here are some strategies you and your loved ones can use to prevent abuse.

  • Control access to your bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Monitor your bank statements for transactions that you didn’t authorise.
  • Keep your bank login details and other sensitive financial information in a secure place that only you have access to.
  • Don’t sign documents you don’t understand.
  • Have an experienced Wills and estates lawyer prepare your Will and other estate planning documents.
  • If someone else controls your finances, make sure you have a third party you trust to verify that what they’re doing is in your best interests.
  • Don’t transfer assets or lend money to people without an agreement prepared and witnessed by your lawyer.
  • Have a strong support network of family and friends that you can turn to for advice.

Our Family Law Team

Dan O'Connor

Partner – Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

Estate Planning / Succession Law / Trusts / SMSF / Powers of Attorney / Aged Care contracts

P: +61 7 5597 3366Read More

Lisa Ryan

Associate

Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

P: +61 7 55973366Read More

Emma Curtis

Solicitor

Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

P: +61 7 55973366Read More

Prevent and stop elder abuse.

Understand your rights and take action with the support of a Bell Legal solicitor.

Speak To A Family Lawyer