Feb 13, 2023

Elder abuse most often committed by family members

Elder abuse most often committed by family members

New data released by UnitingCare has revealed a worrying 15.6% increase in elder abuse notifications in Queensland, with the record number of cases of abuse most commonly caused by family members.

Elder Abuse Statistics in Queensland: Year in Review 2021-22 featured data from the Queensland Government-funded Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (EAPU) Helpline, which received 3,841 calls across the 2021-22 financial year.

The findings show that many victims, including those in aged care or in the community, experienced psychological distress, deterioration in their health and wellbeing, plus negative financial consequences due to the abuse.

The two most common types of abuse were psychological (76.6%) and financial (62.1%), while other findings from the data revealed that:

  • 80.2% of calls related to abuse in close or intimate relationships
  • 5% of calls involved aged care services or aged care workers
  • 71.1% of close or intimate relationship cases of abuse involved either a son or daughter as the perpetrator
  • Workers in aged care, health or community services reported 13.7% of abuse notifications 
  • 91.6% of reported issues in residential aged care related to the quality of care provided
  • 6 in 10 victims of elder abuse did not seek any help or advice

General Manager of UnitingCare’s Wellbeing Services, Luke Lindsay, said it was particularly concerning to see that the number of elder abuse cases where victims and perpetrators live together has increased by almost 75% over the past four years.

“The tough economic climate and the housing crisis continue to present challenges for many people within the community, which unfortunately means that the drivers of increased cohabitation will likely continue in the short-term as more adult children move in with their parents,” said Mr Lindsay.

“Multi-generational living can be challenging and unfortunately relationships can break down, placing the older person at higher risk of distressing financial, psychological or even physical abuse.” 

In many cases, family members misused their Enduring Power of Attorney or coerced their victims into paying their bills or gifting items. 

Many victims also had their medical and nutritional needs neglected, while perpetrators regularly restricted their access to a phone or visitors. 

Queensland Seniors Minister, Craig Crawford, acknowledged that while it is disappointing to see so many abuse cases involving family, the additional calls to EAPU show that more people have the confidence to speak up and report elder abuse from their loved ones.

“This latest report shows a spike in victims and perpetrators cohabitating as people move back home to live with elderly family,” said Mr Crawford. 

“We know there are many reasons why cohabitation occurs, but it is vital our elders deserve to live safely, with dignity and respect. 

“What we can take from the increase in reported cases is that our awareness campaigns are working. We are bringing the issue out of the shadows, letting people know there is help and support available and making access to that support possible.” 

Reports of elder abuse have been on the rise nationally, with almost 40,000 serious incidents reported to the Government’s aged care watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS). 

SIRS data closely matched elder abuse concerns with the quality of care in residential aged care as both highlighted ongoing issues with safety, the use of restraint and attention to personal needs.

Long term solutions

Roughly 1-in-6 people aged 65 and older living within the community have reported a personal experience of elder abuse, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

This national data backs up UnitingCare’s research, reinforcing the need to address experiences of neglect, physical, financial, sexual and psychological abuse.

Almost 33% of cases reported to EAPU involved an element of ageism while perpetrators in 44% of cases believed they were entitled to an older relative’s assets.

Mr Lindsay said this points to the need for societal change to reduce the prevalence of abuse.

“The data shows that we need longer term solutions to this issue, a focus on supporting access to safe, accessible, and affordable housing for victims of elder abuse is needed,” said Mr Lindsay.

“This means tackling ageist attitudes, income inequity and the lack of access to aged care support. 

“Our elderly community not only have the right to be safe and free from abuse, but they also deserve to be treated with dignity.”

Recommendations made to deliver a greater sense of safety include additional support to safe, accessible and affordable housing, as well as a greater focus on culturally appropriate services to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

Additional research was also recommended to address gaps in knowledge regarding barriers to change, motivational factors for perpetrators and the effectiveness of an evidence-based perpetrator program that could intervene and stop elder abuse early on.

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  1. I have wonder if we as parents have spoilt our children. Private schools, sport, dance, music lessons. All very costly when you have more the 2! My 3 eldest still expect my 67 yr old husband to pay their car registrations which he has only in the last year put a stop to it. They never pay board even when it has been put to them. None do any housework nor do they clean their rooms. I just close the bedroom doors now! Yep. We have made a rod for our own backs. My youngest would have to be the most thoughtful. To the rest of my children we are old to them even though we both work full-time in physical jobs not sitting behind a desk all day where one can safely say you probably won’t need to retire as we may but cannot due to the government making us all work until we reach 67. I would be bored if I didn’t work as it is money necessary to have a lifestyle most people still need especially if you have grandchildren which we don’t atm. I just hope they won’t become a burden on us when we do retire one day. I did my job raising 4 and I am quite over it now!

  2. “This is not for publication due to an intervention order” I believe that I have suffered elder abuse (desertion) and unfair distribution of chattels and finances that were sorted without any input from myself.
    At over eighty years of age at the time of the event, one does not expect to lose a partner/ spouse after thirty years together. This event came to fruition four years ago. The intervention order was part of the process to keep me from discussions with the other parties.


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