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Home News and media centre News How to protect yourself from harm

How to protect yourself from harm

OPAN received almost 1400 calls about abuse in the six months to March 2023.

Abuse of older people can take many forms and is not always obvious. It may be psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, or due to neglect.

The best way to protect yourself, says Karen Williams, Principal Solicitor at ADA Law, is to choose the right support team.

‘It’s hard for most of us to anticipate frailty, a time when someone else is legally in charge of our affairs and decision-making.

‘That time won’t come for everybody, but the older we get, the more likely it becomes.’

A support team with the right skill-set is vital, says Ms Williams.

‘Systems won’t automatically fall into place. You need a team around you – for the good days and the bad days.

‘When appointing a substitute decision-maker, such as an attorney or an enduring guardian, it’s important to be objective.

Pick the best person for the job

‘Think about it as if you are employing someone to do a job.

‘Who is a trusted person who is good with money? Who is the person who will follow your wishes in hospital? Who is the person who will advocate for you when I need it?

‘Pick the best fit – it’s not necessarily a family member or a close friend.’

Plans and documents should be reviewed every 12 months, says Ms Williams.

‘It’s not set and forget. You need to ensure the plan is current for where you are now.

‘People cut corners, it’s human nature.’

Ms Williams also recommends appointing a trusted person to a monitoring role.

‘It’s having someone in your network, and that can be a professional person, checking your bank statements, checking everything is okay.

‘Half the problem with elder abuse is that when attorneys don’t think anyone is looking over their shoulder, they cut corners.

‘It’s just human nature.

‘But one corner being cut leads to another corner being cut and before you know you are on a slippery slope, often to neglect, if not abuse.’

Need more assistance?

For more information about how to protect yourself from harm, go to OPAN’s Self-advocacy toolkit.

OPAN advocates can provide independent and confidential information to older people experiencing abuse or neglect within the aged care system.

Advocates can also provide information and education sessions in residential aged care homes and community settings around identifying and preventing abuse.

Speak with one of our aged care advocates on 1800 700 600 or complete a form on our website.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Elder Abuse helpline on 1800 353 374.