Local businesses

Sometimes, it is local businesses who are the first to notice that a customer may be experiencing elder abuse. If a regular customer is suddenly unable to afford their regular purchases or has no money in their bank account, or a reliable tenant is suddenly unable to pay their rent, it may be a sign that they’re experiencing financial abuse.

Other signs to look out for include:

  • any sudden or radical change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn or anxious
  • a new reluctance to talk openly
  • an adult child yells or denigrates them while in your business
  • the older person no longer speaks for themselves and seems overly compliant with the adult child
  • unexplained injuries.

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

Diane and Mrs P’s story

Diane, who works at a newsagency, phoned the Elder Abuse Helpline for advice about a situation with one of her customers, known to everyone as ‘Mrs P’.

Mrs P comes in every Thursday to buy a newspaper and Lotto ticket. She used to always pay cash but a couple of months previously had started using a key card. Although she had some difficulty at first, she soon became quite comfortable using it for her purchases.

This Thursday, however, the EFTPOS machine declined her transaction. Mrs P didn’t seem to understand and when Diane helped her phone the bank, she was told there was no money in her account. Mrs P was very upset and said that could not be right. Diane took her aside to comfort her and, during the course of their conversation, found out that Mrs P had got a key card on the suggestion of a relative who stayed with her occasionally.

She sometimes gave the relative the key card to buy groceries and other household items for her.

Diane thought the situation seemed suspicious and wanted to help Mrs P but wasn’t sure how to go about it. When she phoned the helpline, the operator agreed that Mrs P could be experiencing financial abuse and may need advice about legal options for dealing with this, as well as longer-term assistance for safeguarding her finances. Diane assisted Mrs P to speak to the helpline to discuss options available to her.

The helpline operator explored the relationship between Mrs P and the relative and considered Mrs P’s safety. They advised her to go to her bank alone and talk to the staff about securing her card and changing her PIN. They also advised Mrs P about options to ensure her safety, such as the need for a Domestic Violence Order if she was fearful her relative may continue to bully her.

The helpline operator asked about Mrs P’s Enduring Power of Attorney details to make sure that she would be safe from potential abuse in the future and provided the details of the Seniors Legal and Support Service closest to Mrs P to talk about recovering her lost money. The Seniors Legal and Support Service provides free, confidential legal advice and counselling to people experiencing elder abuse.

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