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November 19, 2011

Drive to Combat Elder Abuse Backed (NEW ZEALAND)

Drive to combat elder abuse backed
By John Maslin
November 18, 2011

Age Concern is considering promoting a campaign highlighting financial abuse of the elderly along similar lines to the "It's not okay" campaign against domestic violence.
 And Age Concern Wanganui is endorsing such a programme.

A review on the financial abuse of older people in New Zealand, written by Judith Davey of the Institute of Policy Studies and Age Concern New Zealand's Jayne McKendry, calls for a campaign similar to that against family violence but aimed at combating ageism and promoting respect for older people.

Tracy Lynn, manager of Age Concern Wanganui, said financial abuse of the elderly was frequently being brought to the attention of the Wanganui office.

Ms Lynn said the alarming aspect was that most abusers were known and trusted by the victims.

"It must be remembered that older people are entitled to control their own money and assets and to use them as they choose, even if others think that choice is unwise," she said.

"There's also limited time in which an older person may recoup money that has been misappropriated and that could leave them in a vulnerable situation."
But Ms Lynn said older people also had to take responsibility and not give ATM cards and PIN codes to anybody, including family members. Doing so meant they were being negligent and could be at risk of financial abuse.

And she said an enduring power of attorney (EPA), intended to support the well-being of an older person, was sometimes misused, as people saw it as an opportunity to take control of a person's finances and assets "and as a way out of their own financial mess".

"In all of our work with elder abuse and including financial elder abuse, we must always consider the changes to the Crimes Amendment Act (No3) 2011, passed in September.
 "Anyone that knows or is aware of an older or vulnerable person being neglected, mistreated or abused and does nothing about it, may be liable under the act," Ms Lynn said.
 Ms McKendry, Age Concern New Zealand's expert in elder abuse and neglect prevention, said she hoped the new review would prompt people in the private sector, government and non-governmental organisations to take action. "No single response will be sufficient to tackle this complex issue. We all have a responsibility to work together to stop financial abuse."

She said financial abuse was the illegal or improper use of an older person's money or property, usually by a relative or other person in a position of trust.
 "Financial abuse can deprive older people of their life savings and assets. They may face longstanding poverty and ill health. This sort of abuse also damages family relationships as well as causing great distress to older people," she said.
 The review said a good way for older people to protect themselves was to establish an enduring power of attorney that managed a person's finances, should they become unable to do so. As an added safeguard, that person could be held accountable by reporting to a third party.


SOURCE:     The Wanganui Chronicle, New Zealand
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