With more people experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns and restrictions, some are turning to older relatives to provide financial support and accommodation.
As much as parents and grandparents may want to support their family members, it is important to seek legal advice to protect their interests.
Those working closely with older people are seeing an increase in people moving back in with older relatives, usually children moving into their parent's house. That is not necessarily a bad thing - there are numerous benefits such as additional companionship and support, especially during lockdowns. Family members can also pool funds and resources and care for each other.
However, there are problems, such as when stress and close quarters lead to arguments, verbal abuse, and sometimes even physical abuse. More difficulties arise when the parent tries to evict the child.
Close cohabitation does lead to discord and relationship breakdowns and there is no shame in people seeking help to improve family functioning. We need to remove the stigma associated with admitting that there is discord in family relationships. There are services to help older people to improve communication skills, resolve family conflict and prevent elder abuse.
While many of us cannot imagine it could happen, elder abuse is a real and growing issue. Research estimates pre-COVID elder abuse rates to be as high as 14 per cent. There are no statistics available yet on how much elder abuse has increased due to COVID-19, but isolation is a driver of elder abuse.
Abuse can be financial, physical, psychological, emotional, sexual or neglect, and tragically, most cases are perpetuated by a family member.
An adult child returning to the family home increases the risk of elder abuse. The older person is now living with their abuser, unable to escape the abuse. A parent might be reluctant to evict or their child may refuse. If giving family members financial account details, older people should continue to monitor their accounts.
We all have a role to play. Check in with older friends and if you suspect abuse, talk to the older person, or report it. The free, confidential, National Elder Abuse phone line is 1800 353 374.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to help family members, but we must normalise and encourage older people to protect themselves.
Tanya Chapman is a senior associate in elder law and estate planning at Catherine Henry Lawyers
IN THE NEWS:
- Demand for China from the Port of Newcastle a long game
- NSW government rebuts federal criticism of its electricity "roadmap"
- Pipes for potential Walsh Point desalination plant would run under Hunter River and Stockton
- Kurri Kurri sensation 'Mulletfest' is back in 2021
- Bull sharks caught in Lake Macquarie made waves in 2012
- Newcastle jobless rate at nine-month low as workers return to labour market