The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended a national register of people holding power of attorney in a discussion paper on elder abuse, as they have found that enduring power of attorney is being used by some people as a “licence to steal”. At present the system has no way of verifying attempts to withdraw or transfer money on behalf of an elderly person. The report recognises that “early inheritance syndrome” is a form of financial abuse where children try to get financial gain out of their parents before their death.
Following widespread reports of psychological, physical and financial abuse and neglect of elderly people by relatives, friends and parents the Attorney General, George Brandis, established the enquiry by the ALRC in February 2016. About 6 per cent of elderly Australians become victims of elder abuse annually, suffering harassment, assault, theft, bullying, forced sale of assets and property. Some are forced to pay bills and have their properties taken over. I wrote of a client of mine who suffered this situation in a blog in June and have seen other examples of elderly abuse in my role as a Placement Specialist for aged care accommodation. It is distressing to know this sort of abuse is going on and I am relieved to see recommendations coming out of this report which will hopefully help to curtail the abuse.
“In developing the proposals in this discussion paper we have worked to balance the autonomy of older people with providing appropriate protections, respecting the choices that older persons make, but also safeguarding them from abuse,” Professor Croucher said in a statement calling for community feedback on the proposals by February 27th, 2017.
Some of the recommendations include:
A provision in the Code of Banking Practice to prevent financial elder abuse.
Two people be required to approve access to a person’s bank account.
People who are carers, bankrupt, prohibited from directing a company or have a criminal record of fraud or dishonesty be prevented from being enduring attorneys.
It’s a shame there’s not a greed meter that could be applied to anyone who is appointed as Power of Attorney. Of course, most relatives are very caring and respectful in this role and, is always the case with abhorrent behaviour, it is only a few that create problems.