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Information for older people

Sometimes it may be hard to know if what you’re going through counts as elder abuse. We know that people committing elder abuse try to excuse their behaviour. You may have heard some of these excuses, or you may feel you have to excuse the abusive behaviour of your son or daughter or grandchild.

We’ve included some information about elder abuse as well as some examples below. Remember, there’s no excuse for elder abuse.

‘It’s going to be my money anyway.’

Many people committing financial abuse try to justify why they feel entitled to skim an older person’s pension or steal money out of their wallet or bank account. Sometimes, they may have been given permission to access an account once and then keep taking money from the account. If they don’t have consent to continue taking the money or using the key card, this is elder abuse.

Often older people are manipulated into compromising their finances. Your own family member, friend or carer may do this by implying you are not capable or responsible enough to manage your own finances. Service providers tell us people will influence older people to do this by saying ‘You have always been bad at managing your money. Give me access to your accounts and I will look after it’. Some may position it as doing something good for the older person but it is actually for their benefit—‘If you have too many assets you won’t receive the pension because of the means test. Give them to me so you can get the pension.’ Some may take the money as they feel they need it more.

Sadly, sometimes people borrow money never intending to pay the money back even if they say they will. You should always get independent legal advice if you are entering into a financial agreement with someone. Even though they’re family, or they have a lawyer who they say can also provide you advice, the only way to fully protect yourself is to get independent legal advice. Other types of financial abuse include:

  • selling your personal belongings without permission
  • misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by taking your money or property improperly
  • forcing you to change your will
  • denying you access to, or control of, your own funds
  • constantly asking for money
  • not letting you see your bank or financial statements
  • transferring your money into an account you can’t access without their permission
  • making you sign documents without letting you read through them alone.

‘Mum’s house is my payment for looking after her.’

Most people have the best intentions when they move in with a parent or relative to care for them or invite them to live in their home. However, this scenario can be one where other forms of elder abuse, including emotional abuse, neglect and physical abuse are used against an older person who is then manipulated or pressured into transferring their house into their carer’s name.

The Elder Abuse Helpline operators have heard many cases where various forms of elder abuse are used by people with caring responsibility. They know these problems can be hard to address—the carer is generally a loved one who may be at risk of homelessness or other serious issues if they are removed from the home to stop the abuse—but everyone has a right to be safe.

Sometimes people are motivated by the financial opportunity to get the Carer’s Allowance. However, the Carer’s Allowance comes with a responsibility to provide proper care—and this may be hard work.

Emotional abuse and neglect include:

  • intimidating, humiliating or harassing you
  • threatening to evict you or put you in a nursing home against your wishes
  • frightening you by threatening to hurt your pet or breaking your belongings
  • preventing you from seeing family or friends
  • preventing your family or friends from visiting
  • stopping you from going out
  • not letting you have privacy with visitors or phone calls
  • using emotional blackmail such as, ‘I’ve given up my life to care for you, I am owed something!’, ‘If you love me you’ll do this for me’ and even threatening to harm themselves
  • denying you the right to make your own decisions
  • preventing service providers from providing you help—they may be viewed as likely to alert police to the situation
  • giving you inappropriate meals when you are on a special diet (e.g. for diabetes or high blood pressure)
  • a person with responsibility for providing care to you neglecting your physical, medical or emotional needs.

Sadly, sometimes people will also use physical abuse to force the transfer of assets if they do not feel they are getting their fair share.

If you have experienced any of these issues, help is available.

‘Dad should know I’ve always had a temper.’

Many things can trigger physical abuse. It might be a disagreement over everyday things. It may be that your son or daughter is struggling with drug addiction or mental illness and when you try to encourage them to seek help or offer support they are unwilling and lash out.

It may also happen in the context of a carer relationship. If you don’t cooperate when the carer is providing care, they may then slap or shove you.

Restraining or locking up an older person with dementia in the house while the carer goes out is also elder abuse.

Physical and sexual abuse also includes:

  • slapping, hitting, pushing or restraining you
  • deliberately placing mobility aides out of reach
  • throwing and smashing household items
  • kicking, hitting or injuring your pet
  • restraining you from leaving the house or getting to the door when people come to visit
  • making unwanted sexual approaches or behaving indecently toward you
  • forcing you to watch pornographic content.

If you are worried, or you are worried about someone you know, help is available.


Elder Abuse Helpline

Free anonymous and confidential assistance between 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday

1300 651 192 (Queensland only)

(07) 3867 2525 (rest of Australia)

This helpline is funded by the Queensland Government and operated by UnitingCare Community.

An experienced and trained operator will help you identify the signs of abuse and provide referrals to the relevant support services.

In an emergency call triple zero (000).

Other support services