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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.

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

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 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, 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 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 
  • Consider preparing an advance health directive, which outlines your wishes regarding your future health care, should you become unable to make your own decisions.

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Personal stories

Read some real life stories of people who sought help for themselves via the Elder Abuse Helpline. All names have been changed.

Betty and Tom’s story

Betty and Tom 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. Like most families, they didn’t put anything in writing and no legal advice was sought.

Betty and Tom 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 Tom 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.

However getting the money back in situations such as this may not prove easy after a recent court decision for a similar matter found that unless there is a binding loan agreement there is only a moral obligation to pay the money back. If you are lending money to a family member, it is important that you seek independent legal advice before entering the arrangement. Otherwise, it could result in a difficult and possibly fruitless time in getting the money back.

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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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

Theres no excuse for elder abuse video

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