Advice for people experiencing elder abuse - Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland Government)

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Advice for people experiencing elder abuse

You have a right to be safe and to be treated with dignity and respect. You have the right to make decisions about the way you lead your life, including how you manage your finances, living arrangements and health care, who you see and what you do.

Sadly, sometimes older people are not treated the way they should be by their families or those responsible for their care. It is hard to accept and harder still to report but their behaviour is not a reflection on you and you do not have to accept it or make excuses for it.

If your rights are being abused, it’s wrong. You do not have to tolerate this behaviour. There is help available and ways you can protect yourself.

Support services

Seniors are helped to stay healthy, active and independent through community support services, including services responding to elder abuse. You can find out more about these services below.

In an emergency call triple zero (000)

Elder Abuse Helpline

1300 651 192 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)

Trained staff at the helpline can explore the situation with you and help identify services and individual strategies to address the abuse.

If you are experiencing elder abuse you can also call a Seniors Legal and Support Service near you, where a solicitor and social worker may provide you with free legal and support services, or refer you to a service in your local area.

  • Brisbane: (07) 3214 6333
  • Cairns: 1800 650 931 or (07) 4031 7179
  • Hervey Bay: (07) 4124 6863
  • Toowoomba: (07) 4616 9700
  • Townsville: (07) 4721 5511

Public Trustee

For more than 100 years the Public Trustee has been helping Queenslanders manage their planning for the future.

With over 550 staff, located at 16 Regional Offices across the state, and mobile will making service, they provide a range of services to Queenslanders including Will making, Enduring Powers of Attorney, Executor and Financial Administration services. To make an appointment visit the Public Trustee website or call the Public Trustee on 1300 360 044.

Other confidential advice and support services

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24-hour crisis support line)
  • Legal Aid Queensland: 1300 651 188 (8.30am to 5pm)
  • DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811 (24 hours, seven days a week)
  • DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636 (9 am to midnight, seven days a week)

If you are experiencing elder abuse, don’t wait—access help now.

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Tips for protecting yourself

There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from elder abuse.

  • Stay in touch with friends and service providers such as your general practitioner, and keep socially active for as long as possible.
  • Avoid making important decisions after major life changes.
  • Seek independent advice before making any changes to your financial or living arrangements.
  • If you are feeling pressured to make a decision or sign a document, stop, wait and seek advice.
  • Manage your affairs for as long as possible.
  • Ensure you have a valid Enduring Power of Attorney and will. You can find out more about these documents below.
  • Consider preparing an advance health directive, which outlines your wishes regarding your future health care, should you become unable to make your own decisions.

Power of attorney

Power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to manage your finances and/or make personal decisions on your behalf if you lose capacity to make these decisions yourself.

There are 2 different types of power of attorney documents which are used for various reasons:

  • general power of attorney
  • Enduring Power of Attorney.

Information about power of attorney as well as power of attorney forms can be downloaded from the Queensland Government’s Power of Attorney webpage.

A power of attorney only begins when there has been a loss of capacity, not when the paperwork has been signed. If someone you know is using a power of attorney to make decisions about your life when you have not lost capacity to make those decisions yourself, this may be elder abuse. Call the Elder Abuse Helpline or your local Seniors Legal and Support Service for advice.

Wills

Having a valid will is important because it is a legal document that specifies exactly how you would like your property, assets and finances managed and divided after you pass away. It also states exactly who you would like to receive or manage your estate and affairs.

Not having a will means that your assets will be given or divided as per the Queensland laws of intestacy. This means that your family and friends may not inherit what you would like them to and they may spend time and money trying to dispute your estate.

Before signing or writing a will, it is important to seek advice. The Public Trustee provides free will-making services to Queenslanders. They will also ensure the will is a true reflection of what you want to happen with your estate.

You should not sign a will that goes against your wishes. This may be elder abuse.

Information is also available in Italian, Mandarin and Amharic.

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Personal stories

Read some stories of people who sought help for themselves. All names have been changed.

Ethel’s story

After the breakdown of his marriage, Ethel’s son Mark moved in with her to get back on his feet.

Over the coming weeks, Ethel noticed Mark was going out a lot at night and not coming home until after she was asleep. One night, she got up to get herself a drink of water and noticed him slipping her debit card back into her purse.

The next day, she went to the bank and discovered that in the two months since he moved in Mark had spent thousands using her card. She asked them how this could happen when he didn’t even have her PIN and they explained that contactless payments meant he didn’t need her PIN or signature if he was spending under $100.

Ethel was devastated that Mark had abused her trust. The staff member at the bank called the Elder Abuse Helpline while she was there so they could look at the best options for her such as engaging a Seniors Legal and Support Service should she want Mark out of her house.

Tom and Dorothy’s story

Dorothy had been caring for her husband Tom at home for many years. Their daughter, Julie, started telling them that she didn’t think her mum was capable of providing the care her dad needed. Eventually, they agreed and Julie moved in to help care for her dad.

Shortly after moving in, Julie started belittling and berating Tom and Dorothy, telling them they had ruined her life by getting her to move in with them. She provided no support to Dorothy for Tom’s care, instead adding to demands on Dorothy’s time and constantly criticising everything she did.

When they were at their most vulnerable, having been made to feel worthless by their own daughter, Julie presented them with an updated will which left the house to her instead of shared equally among Tom and Dorothy’s three children. Julie claimed it was her payment for looking after them and that she deserved it all.

Worried, Dorothy called the Elder Abuse Helpline who suggested that she get her own legal advice. The helpline operator put her in touch with a range of services that could help including the Seniors Legal and Support Service who could provide assistance if a Domestic Violence protection order was required.

Betty and Tim’s story

Betty and Tim rang the Elder Abuse Helpline because they were extremely worried about an issue with their only son, Ian. The couple lent Ian $75,000 seven years ago to boost his successful printing business. The verbal agreement was that Ian would pay the money back in increments of $10,000 per year. Betty and Tom were reasonably well off at the time and self-funding their retirement.

Betty and Tim received one payment from Ian of $5,000, but for the last four years had received nothing. Recently Ian told his parents that the printing business had been hit hard by changing times and that he was no longer able to pay them back. He is now claiming that the money was a gift, and that it would be his money anyway when they die. Betty and Tom say that their son still appears to be living a very affluent lifestyle, even though he claims to be poor.

Since they lent Ian the money, Betty and Tim had to apply for the pension, as they were also hit by the global financial crisis, lower interest rates and unexpected medical expenses. The couple were upset that the money that should have been returned to them was funding their son’s lifestyle. The Elder Abuse Helpline operator recommended that the couple look at their legal options and provided details for the Seniors Legal and Support Service closest to them. Seniors Legal and Support Services provide free legal advice and counselling to people experiencing elder abuse.

Clare’s story

Clare phoned the Elder Abuse Helpline because she was upset about the way her son-in-law was treating her and wanted to talk about it confidentially to someone outside her family and group of friends.

Clare had lived in a granny flat adjoining her daughter and son-in-law’s house for about a year and had been happy with the arrangement until a few months previously when her son-in-law had started calling in to see her, unannounced and alone, mostly when her daughter was out. During these visits, he would create some excuse for pulling her close to him or cuddling her and had sometimes touched her in a way that she felt was inappropriate.

Clare told the helpline operator she was distressed about her son-in-law’s behaviour towards her. She had tried to ignore it and wanted to stop it but there were so many complicating factors that she didn’t know how to go about doing so. She felt embarrassed and was concerned about the impact that speaking out would have on her relationship with her daughter, grandchildren and other family members, as well as her living arrangements. She said she couldn’t sell the granny flat, or afford to buy or rent another place to live. Clare didn’t want the current situation to continue but felt the options for addressing it were limited.

The helpline operator talked through some steps she could take, emphasising that it was essential to protect her safety. Clare was advised to avoid being alone with her son-in-law, to keep her door locked to prevent unwanted visits from him, or if possible, to stay with a friend or other family member for a while to think through her options. The operator helped Clare develop a safety plan, and advised her that if she felt threatened or unsafe she should seek help immediately, including contacting the police.

The operator also explained that solicitors and social workers were available through the Seniors Legal and Support Service to advise her about her legal options to protect her from further abuse or for changing her living arrangements and to help her maintain family relationships during this process. She was also given the contact number for the statewide Sexual Assault Helpline and encouraged to talk to them for additional support.

Clare said she felt relieved to discuss the situation and stronger to deal with it as the safety plan meant she knew what to do whether she decided to leave or stay. She said she would immediately arrange to visit her sister for a few weeks and, while there, make an appointment with the Seniors Legal and Support Service.

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Contacts

Elder Abuse Helpline

9am–5pm, Monday to Friday

1300 651 192 (Queensland only)

(07) 3867 2525 (rest of Australia)

This Queensland Government funded helpline is run by UnitingCare Community.

Free anonymous and confidential advice for anyone experiencing elder abuse or who suspects someone they know may be experiencing elder abuse.

In an emergency call the police on triple zero (000).

Other support services

Is your feedback

Please submit your comments on the department's Compliments and Complaints section.

Please submit your comments on the Queensland Government website Contacts form.