Personal Stories

Psychological abuse

Caller: Older person’s daughter

Maria is 80 years old, from a non-English speaking background and suffers from depression.

Maria’s son moved in to the unit 4 months ago; he has a mental health issue. He verbally abuses his mother, has repeatedly threatened to harm her, and has been withholding personal items, such as Maria’s door key.

Maria’s daughter phoned the Helpline with concerns about her mother’s safety and said Maria had become quite withdrawn.

Responses from the Elder Abuse Helpline

  • What does Maria want? Does she want to stay in her home and have her son move out? The Helpline sent Maria a Legal Aid brochure in her preferred language, such as Adult children living at home – What do you do if you want them to leave?
  • If Maria doesn't’t want her son to relocate, EAHRU suggested a safety plan which would include:
    • The Mental Health Crisis Line or her brother’s mental health case manager (if one exists) could be called by Maria’s daughter
    • A report to the NSW Police was discussed as a choice for Maria – options of an exclusion order via an Apprehended Violence Order (an AVO)
  • The Helpline could speak with Maria directly via an interpreter service to seek permission to make referrals on her behalf, e.g., to a counselling service, aged care providers, or liaise with her health professionals; her daughter could also make these referrals
  • Does Maria need more support from her GP – is there a decision-making/cognitive issue (known as diminished capacity)? Maria's daughter could make an appointment for her mother to see her GP to discuss options such as respite for Maria outside her home, or an Aged Care Assessment (ACAT)
  • EAHRU discussed if a mediation service, such as that provided by the Community Justice Centre, would be of assistance in this circumstance
  • A multicultural advocacy service could be contacted to assist Maria

Financial abuse

Caller: Older person's neighbour

Sally is 68 years old and lives in a granny flat attached to her daughter’s house. Sally’s daughter is married with two children and had in the recent past sold her house to help her daughter financially; Sally was left with only $60,000 as her ‘nest egg’. Sally has continued to help her daughter meet her expenses as her daughter’s family are experiencing financial hardship.

Sally had a recent stay in hospital after a hip replacement and has mobility problems so her daughter has been helping with the shopping and paying the bills with her VISA debit card. Sally has mentioned to her neighbour that her daughter always makes excuses about the ATM machine not providing her with receipts.

Also, Sally is anxious as her daughter has been screaming at her lately; the neighbour hears her shouting at Sally.

Responses from the Elder Abuse Helpline

  • What does Sally want to do about the situation?
  • EAHRU suggested to the neighbour that Sally could call the Helpline directly, or the Helpline could send some information to Sally
  • EAHRU recommended Sally review her accounts via statements, telephone/internet banking, or phone her bank manager to discuss concerns about her money and any safeguards on the accounts
  • The neighbour could suggest to Sally she could receive a volunteer or community service provider to assist with shopping, banking and additional home care services to enable Sally to be more independent
  • The caller could suggest Sally consider paying bills herself via Centrelink CentrePay, or organise online home delivery for shopping
  • Sally could also appoint someone as Power of Attorney or be referred to a legal service to discuss her concerns, such as the granny flat living arrangement
  • Does Sally feel she can approach her daughter about the situation – does her daughter need support? The caller could suggest Sally meet with her daughter about their relationship and any support needs her daughter might have, such as carer respite, family and/or financial counselling
  • Does Sally want to move out? She could move and seek help with her relocation via Centrelink rental assistance

Neglect and psychological abuse (social isolation)

Caller: Older person’s friend

Bill is 75 years old with a mobility disability; his wife died 6 months ago. Bill told his friend that he needs a ramp and that the aged care services were organising help for him. However, Bill’s friend reports that when he spoke to the niece, she said Bill does not need any more assistance because she is living there.

The caller is also concerned that since this conversation, he has not seen Bill at bingo anymore. When friends phone, Bill's niece always says he is asleep or not available. When Bill's friend was allowed to visit, he noticed unopened mail in the bin that was addressed to Bill.

Responses from the Elder Abuse Helpline

  • The caller was asked if Bill has specified what he wants. Does he want his niece to move out?
  • EAHRU encouraged the caller to speak with any of Bill’s other family members about his concerns, as well as to Bill’s GP. The GP or the caller could discuss Bill’s circumstances with the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) and possibly organise a family meeting
  • EAHRU discussed the different types of support available for Bill, such as day visits, social outings and community transport – this information was posted to the caller
  • The caller could encourage Bill's niece to install a ramp so Bill can be more independent
  • Bill’s friend could continue to try to speak with Bill and his niece and the different types of support available for Bill, such as day visits, social outings and community transport, and his accommodation options