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This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day protect yourself from harm

This Wednesday, 15 June, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which shines an important light on elder abuse and how older Australians can protect themselves from experiencing this type of abuse.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day puts a spotlight on elder abuse and how the community can help identify the hidden abuse towards older Australians. [Source: iStock]

The United Nations officially recognised this day in 2011 to highlight the rights of older people and prevent mistreatment and harm in communities.

In Australia, it is estimated that one in six older people have experienced some form of elder abuse, and only one-third of elder abuse victims actually seek help.

Elder abuse can come in many forms, including financial, physical, psychological, sexual abuse or neglect.

Megan Osborne, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the New South Wales (NSW) Trustee & Guardian, says that this awareness day can help educate people about the signs of elder abuse.

"Research tells us that sadly perpetrators are often adult children, close friends and acquaintances to the person who suffers the abuse," says Ms Osborne.

"It’s important to know what the warning signs are. Take notice if an older person doesn’t have money for essentials like food or clothing, or is unable to pay bills."

While it can be hard to know if a person is experiencing elder abuse - because it is often hidden - some signs of elder abuse include malnourishment or weight loss, fear and anxiousness, large bank withdrawals, missing belongings and unexplained accidents.

These can be the beginning signs that something might not be right, and that an older person may be experiencing elder abuse from a loved one.

Ms Osborne says the NSW Trustee & Guardian often encourages older people to put in place different measures to help protect themselves from elder abuse.

"One important safeguard is to put in place important documents that assist in future decision-making, should you need them," explains Ms Osborne.

"This includes a Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship appointment that lets you choose someone you trust to manage your financial, legal and health decisions if you no longer can.

"A Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship appointment are just as important as having a Will, they operate while you are still alive and can detail how you would like important decisions made for you when you can no longer make them yourself."

Agencies like State and Territory Public Trustees and Guardians and the Office of the Public Advocate aim to protect and support people when making decisions about their dignity, choices, rights and wishes through important document services, like Will-making, estate planning and much more.

These documents can be important protections against elder abuse and ensure you have the right people in a position to assist you when you need help.

However, legal documents like an Enduring Power of Attorney or Will can only be made if you have the decision making capacity to do so.

Ms Osborne says, "Don’t leave them until it’s too late. Protect yourself now and ensure your wishes and preferences are clearly documented so they can be followed."

If you are experiencing elder abuse or suspect someone is, contact the national ELDERHelp line on 1800 353 374. Or in a crisis, contact emergency services on Triple 000.

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