Children ripping off their parents at an alarming rate (AU)


AUSTRALIA’S ageing population is becoming increasingly vulnerable to theft and fraud, the Herald Sun reports today.

The perpetrators, however, are not strangers, but members of their own families.

The elderly have become a prime target for unscrupulous children and grand children who are not prepared to wait until the assets are distributed upon death.

They are resorting to what authorities call financial elder abuse, and it has become an underlying concern across Australia.

State Trustees is probing 60 possible cases in Victoria, but manager Steve Cowell says there are many more that go unreported.

“Most cases are perpetuated by close family members. As a result the crime is a very silent crime, a hidden crime and one that is kept very much in the confines of the family,” he says.

It is a sad indictment of the community that many of our defenceless elderly citizens are being targeted by close family members they have loved and above all, trusted.

Financial elder abuse is a shameful and insidious practice, and all the indications are that it is on the rise. In some cases it is unlawful and constitutes serious fraud, theft and misrepresentation.

As such the full force of the courts should be brought down on offenders.

It might also be time to broaden an education campaign for our elderly citizens on the dangers and pitfalls of putting at risk their hard-earned assets.

The tragedy is that many victims are unaware they have been ripped off until it is too late.


Families prey on parents
September 19, 2011
Herald Sun

Additional coverage:

Children ripping off their parents at an alarming rate
Shelley Hadfield
September 19, 2011
Herald Sun

GREEDY children are ripping off their vulnerable elderly parents at an alarming rate, leaving some destitute.

Powers of attorney are used as a “licence to steal”, elderly parents are pressured into signing over their homes, or money is simply withdrawn from their accounts, it has been revealed.

A Herald Sun investigation has discovered a litany of shocking cases.

In Victoria, State Trustees is investigating 60 possible cases of financial abuse of elderly people by someone close to them. But it believes these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Recent cases include those of a widow who lost her house after her son encouraged her to sign it over for collateral for his business loan.

Law firms receive numerous pleas for help.

“I believe the real numbers are … unreported,” State Trustees manager Steve Cowell said.

“Most cases are perpetrated by close family members. As a result it is a very silent crime, and one kept very much in the confines of the family.”

Seniors Rights Victoria said 39 per cent of 695 people it advised in 2010-11 were seeking help over financial abuse.

Sons were abusers in 29 per cent of cases, and daughters in 18 per cent.

Slater & Gordon solicitor Michael Clohesy said there was formal theft, where an enduring power of attorney was used as a “licence to steal”, and informal theft, where money was taken from accounts or property stolen.

“It’s actually really common, but it does not get reported. The poor parents are so embarrassed about it,” Mr Clohesy said.

“It’s amazing what people do. They think mum and dad are old anyway, they don’t need the money, there’s $150,000 sitting in the account,” he said.

Some cases were criminal, but often the only remedy was through civil litigation, he said.

Mr Cowell said many perpetrators felt entitled: “There’s that view that mum’s and dad’s funds are mine.”

About one in 10 State Trustees clients under VCAT protection orders are victims of financial elder abuse, some of it resulting from financial mismanagement.

There had been a steady increase in cases in the past 15 years, as banks became less willing to lend and some people saw their elderly parents as an easy option for an interest-free loan.

Some were able to get the title to their parents’ home transferred to them within 48 hours.

Some victims did not even understand what had happened, because of age and failing health.

Seniors Rights Victoria manager Jenny Blackey said the ageing population meant more financial abuse of parents.

The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit said in its 2007-08 annual report more than $14 million had been reported stolen from elderly people that year, in Queensland alone. It estimated the total at closer to $97 million.

Widow left to live in dead people’s clothes
Shelly Hadfield
September 19, 2011
Herald Sun

AN elderly widow has been left to live in dead people’s clothes after her son lost her home in a business that turned bad, according to State Trustees.

State Trustees manager Steve Cowell said the man had been unable to get a loan to start his own business, and encouraged his mother to sign over her house to him.

The son had power of attorney for his mother’s affairs after her husband died.

Within nine months the business fell on hard times, the woman was moved into a nursing home, and the house was sold.

The woman is not eligible for Centrelink payments because she gave her house to her son.

State Trustees has been appointed as the woman’s administrator, because she does not have the money to pay nursing home fees and is being dressed in clothes left by the home’s deceased residents.

“When you speak to the son, he had all the best intentions,” Mr Cowell said.

“He does not understand that was his mother’s asset, that she spent her life building. She trusted the son to do the right thing by her.”

In another case, a son given power of attorney for his elderly mum decided he needed to protect her assets from his sister, with whom he had a bitter relationship, so he transferred the assets to his wife.

The plan went well until he and his wife separated, leaving her the sole owner of all of his mother’s assets, including her house and car.

Other recent examples seen by law firm Slater & Gordon include:

A DAUGHTER who helped her mother to buy a house, after the elderly woman sold her own house. The daughter put the new property in her own name.

A WOMAN who discovered her daughter had been using her credit and Eftpos cards overseas.

AN elderly woman who came out of a nursing home after a period of poor health to find a friend with power of attorney had put her house on the market and had cleared out the property.

Slater & Gordon’s Michael Clohesy urged people to pick someone they trust when granting a power of attorney, to limit it, and to make two nominees to keep an eye on each other.

Seniors Rights Victoria’s hotline is 1300-368-821.

Dying for want of respect
Des Houghton
September 14, 2011
The Courier-Mail

CHINA plans to make it a legal duty for children to visit their ageing parents.

Under a draft legal amendment, elderly people could go to court to claim their right to be physically and mentally looked after by their children.

What a splendid idea. And such a novel one – families, not the welfare state, would be required to nurse elderly parents.

China admits its growing elderly population poses a massive social problem. An eighth of the population is older than 60 and more than half of them live alone.

Taking care of the elderly is considered part of traditional Chinese culture but migration and work pressures have been fracturing family ties.

The same could be said for Australia.

Cases of elderly neglect are widespread, especially where children are forced to move away to find work.

Old people are clearly a nuisance. What to do with them is a universal problem.

In Britain, the National Health Service Ombudsman recently warned that elderly patients were routinely receiving care that did not even meet a “basic standard of dignity”.

Horror stories emerged: Old people in hospital suffered dehydration, poor nutrition, inadequate pain relief and badly managed medication.

Journalists who went to interview the elderly named in the report did not get there quickly enough. Most had died.

The Ombudsman found a lot more could be done to prevent old people from being admitted to hospital. Every year, 370,000 old people are treated in British hospitals as a result of falls, at a cost of £840 million ($1.3 billion).

Many in nursing homes were found to be suffering malnutrition. Then, when the elderly do enter hospital, they often find the care is not as good as it should be.

The report found thousands of elderly patients were abandoned in hospitals without sufficient food, water or care.

The lack of compassion noted by the Ombudsman partly arises because hospitals are so keen to discharge elderly patients into the social care system.

Neglecting the elderly and ignoring complaints is just as shameful in this country.

Two sons recently questioned why their mother had been strapped to a toilet for two hours before her body was discovered.

Gwendoline Gleeson, 89, was put in a restraining belt and placed on a toilet at Barrabill House, in Seymour, Victoria, where she was forgotten by nursing home staff.

Sons James Gleeson, 69, and Alan, 62, said they found out only at a coroner’s hearing that their mum had been tied to the toilet. They had believed she was forgotten for just minutes, not hours.

“I don’t want this to happen again to anybody,” James Gleeson said.

“Mum has passed away and I find out 12 months later what has happened and she was left tied to a toilet.

“I’m pretty crook about it. I didn’t know a thing about it.”

Alan Gleeson said he now questioned whether his mother being abandoned for two hours and restrained had led to her heart attack.

“I think it would have to be a big factor, an old woman like my mother being tied up like that,” he said.

Gleeson was one of at least three elderly residents at Barrabill House who had been strapped to toilets – for safety and/or staffing reasons – but coroner John Olle said the practice also might be occurring at other homes and should not happen.

There was no physical reason the nylon restraining belt was used on Gleeson other than to free staff who would otherwise have had to supervise her, material before the Coroner’s Court said.

Neglect of the elderly is widespread. Cases can range from financial abuse to allowing dementia sufferers to lie in soiled bed clothes all day.

Nationwide, frauds against the elderly have reached crime-wave proportions, with most carried out by greedy children or family friends.

The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit in Queensland believes $100 million may be stolen from the elderly each year. Lawyers and aged-care watchdogs warn there is little hope of the missing millions ever being recovered.

Aged-care spending rose by almost $1 billion last year and the number of residential beds increased by 4500.

Spending on aged care in 2009-10 climbed to $11 billion, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported.

The Productivity Commission reported recently that the public cost of aged care would rise to $50 billion a year in 40 years.

There are a million people already receiving aged-care services.

By 2050, the commission says there will be 3.6 million.

More than 600,000 may require intensive, costly, residential care. That number will soar as advances in medicine keep people alive longer.The commission concluded that to keep residential care sustainable, a shift towards user-pays is needed, so those with the highest means pay more.

So unless you are rich, I suggest you delay growing old for as long as possible.

  • Guynanang

    It very good story for the people who have problem they can’t get out of the bad kid the one they want only money.