I became the victim of financial abuse: One retiree shares his story

The Senate has released a special report, calling for a royal commission into the financial abuse of elderly people. The report highlighted that thousands of elder Australians become victims of financial abuse every year, often at the hands of friends or family.

John* lives in a retirement village in Queensland, and has always taken care of his own finances. Despite having a slight mental disability, John has traditionally made smart investments.

Sharing his story with the ABC, John revealed that his finances were recently overrun by his younger sister. By falsifying a doctor’s letter claiming John could not read and write, his sister was able to gain financial control through the public trustee.

“She’d done it basically just to obtain all the money, and yet I’m somebody who can manage money, and she can’t”, John said. His sister has since taken control of hundreds and thousands of dollars.

John now struggles to afford the necessities of life, including basic costs for medicines. “I need help, but I can’t get help”, John added.

It’s a familiar story for groups such as the Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy. Their chief executive, Mr Geoff Rowe, believes situations such as John’s are commonplace.

“People choose, generally, someone that they know, someone that they trust, to be their power of attorney or their guardian,” Mr Rowe said. Therefore financial abuses are “most likely to have control of the purse strings”.

Mr Rowe explained that financial abuse generally begins with smaller amounts of money. In worst-case scenarios, the elderly can lose major assets such as homes and cars.

“We’re seeing more and more where the family home is being taken over by children of the individual for their own purpose, rather than the best interest of the adult person that they’re supposed to be supporting”, Mr Rowe added.

Advocacy groups have welcomed the move towards a royal commission into financial abuse, which targets elderly and disabled Australians too.

“The broader Senate report came up with 30 recommendations, the royal commission being the first”, Mr Rowe commented.

Unfortunately for people like John, the damage has already been done. Certainly more needs to be done, to protect our oldest Australians.

What else can be done to protect Australia’s elderly? Do you think a royal commission would prevent this type of financial abuse?

*Name changed

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