Aged care workers and in-home care and support workers

Aged care workers, in-home carers and other workers who enable older people to stay in their home when they’re no longer able to maintain a clean home and garden may be in position to identify when a person with caring responsibility for an older person is neglecting their physical, medical or emotional needs.

Forced social isolation is something to be keenly aware of if you provide care and support to an older person in their home. Sometimes, when family move in to care for an older person, they may deprive other carers access to them to hide physical or financial abuse or neglect. This forced isolation may also be part of a pattern of emotional abuse. If the carer prevents you from seeing your client, claiming they’re not home for your regular appointments or your client is withdrawn and anxious around the person who has moved in to care for them, they may be experiencing elder abuse. Sometimes, the carer will go as far as cancelling a needed service to keep the money for themselves. If this happens, you can help.

Some other behavioural signs you may notice in an older person you support are:

  • any sudden or radical change in behaviour
  • fear of someone close to them
  • irritability, shaking, trembling or crying
  • depression or social withdrawal, talk of suicide
  • lack of interest in getting involved in their usual activities
  • changes to sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • presenting as helpless, hopeless or sad
  • contradictory statements not associated with mental confusion
  • reluctance to talk openly
  • deferral to another person to speak on their behalf
  • worry or anxiety for no obvious reason
  • unusual lapses in health for a normally health person
  • sleeping during the day more frequently than normal.

You may also notice:

  • lack of money for necessities, including the services you provide
  • unexplained accidents or injuries including bruises, abrasions, burns or facial swelling
  • disappearance of possessions
  • weight loss with no apparent medical cause
  • poor personal hygiene and/or clothing which is inappropriate for the weather or in very poor condition
  • medicines not being purchased or appropriately administered
  • a lack of social, cultural, intellectual or physical stimulation
  • you are never left alone with the older person.

Find out how you can help someone experiencing elder abuse.

Personal stories

The following stories are drawn from the experiences of callers to the Elder Abuse Helpline. All names have been changed.

Peter and Geoff’s story

Peter is a cleaner and gardener who contacted the Elder Abuse Helpline because he was concerned about his elderly client, Geoff.

Geoff was a fit, active 92-year-old who shared his house with his son John. Although Geoff was friendly and liked a chat, John seldom spoke. He didn’t seem to like Geoff and Peter conversing either, or being together, and would often appear while they were talking and stand waiting until they finished.

One day, Peter was at the house doing some mowing and noticed a large nasty-looking bruise on Geoff’s arm. When Peter asked about it in concern, Geoff yelled at him and ordered him off the premises.

Peter was confused by Geoff’s behaviour as it was really out of character. Peter wondered whether the bruising might have been caused by John hitting or pushing him but wasn’t sure what to do about it or whether he should get involved. He was worried about Geoff, however, so phoned the Elder Abuse Helpline to discuss the situation and seek advice.

The helpline operator helped Peter understand why Geoff behaved that way, stating that physical abuse was a serious matter and his reaction indicated that he was likely to be extremely frightened. Given the risk of escalating the abuse, the operator advised Peter that the first step would be to try to speak to Geoff when John wasn’t around, preferably when Geoff was out of the house. The operator explored how to provide Geoff with a safety plan if he felt threatened or at risk in the future and alternative care options such as Bluecare. They also discussed Geoff’s legal options, such as obtaining a Domestic Violence Order. The operator encouraged Peter to have Geoff call the Elder Abuse Helpline at a time that was safe for him and recommended he call the police if he noticed domestic violence occurring.  

Another option discussed with Peter was the provision of an elder abuse information pack as a service he could provide to all his older clients including information about elder abuse, the Elder Abuse Helpline and family violence. As well as information to help Peter approach Geoff, the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit could provide an information session to all his older clients.  

Ray’s story

The manager of a residential aged care facility contacted the Elder Abuse Helpline to discuss a situation that had arisen with Ray, a 75-year-old resident at the facility.

Following his wife’s death, Ray had joined a gay club which he visited once or twice a week. Although Ray had decision-making capacity, his son and daughter were managing his financial affairs through an Enduring Power of Attorney that also covered his personal and health affairs. They had found out about their father’s membership of the club through his credit card bills and had instructed the residential facility, via a lawyer’s letter, to stop Ray from going there. When the matter was discussed with Ray, he was open about his sexual orientation and said he wanted to continue visiting the club and could afford the costs involved.

The Elder Abuse Helpline operator explained how an Enduring Power of Attorney applies differently to financial matters compared to personal and health matters. With financial matters, a person can nominate a date or occasion when the attorney’s power begins and it takes effect from that time (unless the person loses capacity before this). With personal/health matters, however, the attorney’s power to make decisions does not take effect until the person loses decision-making capacity. They noted that the solicitor is required to act in Ray’s best interests.

The operator said that as Ray had decision-making capacity, the Enduring Power of Attorney could not be used to override his personal lifestyle choices or decisions. The operator also advised the manager that the residential facility had a duty of care to make sure Ray was informed about health and other issues related to his choices, and suggested they encourage him to contact a GP, or perhaps arrange for a council support worker to visit him. The operator provided contact details and explained that the local council offered a range of services for the LGBTIQ community, including some specifically for seniors.

The operator also provided contact details for the local Public Trustee office where the manager could get further clarification of the Enduring Power of Attorney, and suggested seeking assistance from the residential facility’s legal firm to respond to the letter received from Ray’s children.

Find out how you can help someone experiencing elder abuse.


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