New resource to help prevent financial abuse of people with dementia

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15 June 2015

A new resource to help prevent the financial abuse of people with dementia is now available, to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The resource, a Q & A sheet, explains how financial abuse of people with dementia can occur. It has been developed following research carried out by Alzheimer’s Australia NSW that found the majority of cases of the financial abuse of people with dementia are carried out by people known to the victim, and that there is no clear mechanism in place for people to report suspected financial abuse.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO The Hon. John Watkins said it was distressing to think that people with dementia do get targeted for financial abuse.

“We hope this resource will go some way towards preventing such opportunistic and troubling behaviour,” Mr Watkins said.

“Financial abuse of people with dementia does happen, and we expect it will happen in increasing numbers as the number of people with dementia continues to grow.

“Research indicates that financial abuse of people with dementia is often perpetrated by family members and by people authorised to manage their money and financial affairs who do not act in their best interests. People with dementia are also at risk of being financially abused by friends and neighbours and other people that they trust.

“Although less common, financial abuse is also perpetrated by people who come into contact with the person with dementia and then seek to take advantage of their vulnerability.”

The Q & A sheet also outlines how people can protect themselves, or the person they are caring for, from being financially abused. It has details of who to contact if you, or a loved one, has been the victim of financial abuse.

The new resource is available, for free, on Alzheimer’s Australia’s website and was developed with financial assistance from the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

It follows the release of a discussion paper, Preventing Financial Abuse of People with Dementia, in June last year, with funding from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW.

Alzheimer’s Australia’s National President Graeme Samuel AC said the best way to safeguard yourself against financial abuse was to plan ahead and appoint someone to act as your attorney through a financial Power of Attorney.

“And that person should be trustworthy, capable and financially literate,” Mr Samuel said.

“It is very important that you appoint someone who you trust will act in your best interests and who will not take advantage of their power. The Alzheimer’s Australia website Start2Talk is a good place to start if you are interested in finding out more about how to go about this.

“It is also important to note that some forms of financial abuse are criminal offences and in these instances the perpetrators should be reported to the police. As well, if you have been, or suspect someone else has been abused, you can contact the relevant helplines in your state, which are listed on this resource.”

As well, not-for-profit education and research organization Capacity Australia has developed a 15 minute e-learning tool tailored to educate bank staff in dementia awareness, supported decision-making, signs of financial abuse and the appropriate responses to suspected financial abuse.

Capacity Australia President Associated Profesor Carmelle Peisah said they were encouraging banks and other financial institutions to adopt this training tool so that their staff may be active in recognising and preventing financial abuse of the elderly.

“It is important that the community expect this standard of corporate responsibility from the banking sector,” Assoc Prof Peisah said.

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Alzheimer’s Australia is the charity for people with dementia and their families and carers. As the peak body, it provides advocacy, support services, education and information.

More than 342,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than half a million by 2030.

National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
An interpreter service is available.
(The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)
Dementia is a National Health Priority Area.

Media enquiries:

Sonia Byrnes 0417 880 949

Bianca Armytage 0407 019 430