Older People, Financial Assets and Abuse: Developing policy and practice responses from research Cheryl Tilse Advocare Perth, June 2007
Multi-disciplinary research team:
social work, economics, finance, law & social policy, community development
Professor Jill Wilson, Dr Cheryl Tilse, Professor Linda Rosenman
Dr Deborah Setterlund, Dr David Morrison, Anne-Louise McCawley
Jennie Peut and Leona Berrie in the community demonstration project
Partners: Australian Research Council; Queensland Government – Public Trustee, Guardianship Tribunal, Adult Guardian, Public Advocate and Office for Seniors; Queensland Law Society; & Aged Care Providers, Wicking trust
Community partners: local banks, aged care providers, care workers, older people’s organisations & carer organisations, city council, police
Brief overview of research program
Key findings from our research on asset management and financial abuse.
Implications for building knowledge for policy, practice and communities about financial abuse of older people.
An example – Redcliffe Community demonstration Project
A: Research Program 2000-06
National survey: n = 3,466.
In-depth studies of 81 asset managers and 34 older people having their assets managed.
In-depth study of practitioners’ decision-making and action in relation to financial abuse: n = 20.
Analysis of GAAT data – patterns of financial abuse for older people with impaired capacity: n = 234.
State survey of aged care workers: n = 159.
Financial abuse in context
Differs from other forms of elder abuse - responses should be specific to this form of abuse
Differs from fraud targeting older people – occurs in a relationship of trust
Is embedded in a family, social and cultural context that includes
everyday activities of managing money in families and
social attitudes and cultural values relating to older people, their assets, self provision and paying for care, intergenerational transfers and inheritances
Financial abuse definition
Illegal or improper use and/or mismanagement of a person’s money, property or resources in a relationship of trust.
Includes: deliberate abuse, undue influence, misuse of EPAs, withholding of funds, failure to repay loans or recognise financial contributions, using possessions without permission.
Asset Management Focus
Asset management involves some control over organising, decision-making and use of assets - income and capital assets.
Includes: day-to-day management of finances, management of investments and property to ensure long-term financial security, management or dispersal of major assets (e.g. home).
Interest is in non-professional asset managers - family, friends and neighbours.
B: Findings: Asset Management (AM) Practices
Managing assets is a common task of carers - one in four Australians had helped an older person with their assets in the past year (2002).
Most commonly adult children assisting parents and parents-in-law for reasons of lack of confidence, disability, poor health and cognitive incapacity.
AM practices vary
Complexity of tasks
Mechanisms used to manage
Informal (using ATMs etc)
Semiformal (bank arrangements)
Formal (EPA, administration)
Degree of involvement of older person – and the fit with OP’s expectations
Mechanisms Used to Manage Assets 49.7 Paying own money 17 Signing cheques and withdrawals 10.5 Electronic banking 9.8 ATM pin number Informal 18.7 Banking arrangement Semi-formal 1.4 Guardianship 15.4 Enduring Power of Attorney Formal % Mechanisms: n = 1,259
A range of risky practices for both asset managers and carers
Poor accountability processes, limited knowledge of responsibilities, decisions based on trust, co-mingling of finances
Underpinning attitudes of entitlement to assets and expectations of intergenerational transfers
A range of views on what constitutes convenient and appropriate practice
Issues of trust in families, convenience for carers and empowerment for older people.
Limited knowledge/mismanagement as well as intentional financial abuse. Also identified safe practices.
Findings: Financial abuse
The context in which assets are managed or access to assets enabled.
Types of access (formal, informal etc) and practices associated with this.
Attitudes held - cultural, social and familial- that underpin practices.
Absence/presence of a capable guardian of the assets.
Responses to financial abuse
Detection and reporting
Intervention and prevention
Proactive as well as reactive responses
Reporting financial abuse
Most common - aged care workers, social workers, ACAT teams, family members.
Rarely financial institutions, lawyers and accountants.
Adult protection services such as Guardian, Public Trustee, Tribunals become involved when most of the assets have been lost.
Key issue then is early detection and response.
Identification – what are the signs?
Lack of assets to pay for care/services or failure to pay bills.
Unusual activity in bank accounts (large withdrawals).
Use or removal of older person’s assets (e.g., car and home) without evidence of compensation or agreement – granny flats
Loans/gifts to family members without records.
Undue influence/pressure to gain EPA, change will, go guarantor, gift monies or property.
Interventions: complex area of practice
Monitor - put in community care services, involve other family members, casework with older person or abuser if amenable.
Referral to legal services or advocacy services (if any).
Referral to Guardian or GAAT to investigate or change financial administration arrangements.
Limited options, concerns about impact on older person and on client/worker access.
Concerns about privacy legislation, duty of care and legal/financial knowledge
Findings - summary
to enhance monitoring, protection and prevention,
facilitate independence/autonomy of older people and
support family involvement.
Current systems have limited preventative focus, limited training and few early alerts
EPAs do not protect from abuse
C: Policy and Practice Implications
Multi-level responses: individual, family, social, cultural and service delivery/legal/financial systems.
Multi-strategy responses: education, support, advocacy and improved systemic responses.
Whole of community response
D: Redcliffe Community Demonstration project
One Year Plan
Community awareness and education - issues and accountability
Inter-organizational protocols and referral networks
Staff training- for service providers, professionals, bank staff
Development and evaluation of materials
Redcliffe Project – Education and support
Older people – workshops and information sessions - building confidence and skills to self-manage assets, and advocacy.
Carers/families – addressing attitudes and behaviours, assistance to develop good practices, enhancing financial literacy and accountability. Improving support.
Community - awareness raising, addressing ageism, attitudes towards older people’s assets and planning for older age. Improving financial literacy more generally .
Workshops with carers and older people
Improving referral networks, agency protocols and cross-sectoral responses –Focus groups, survey and inter-sectoral meetings to develop a referral pathway.
Professional education and staff training – improving recognition and response. Focus on asset management as well as abuse.
Working with networks
Improve the safeguards in current legal mechanisms such as Enduring Powers of Attorney.
Improve access to legal and financial information and advice.
Enhancing the role of financial institutions in education, alerts and reporting.
Addressing environmental barriers to self-management.
Complex issue requiring a range of responses that address prevention as well as intervention.
Keeping protection and empowerment at the forefront.
Promoting attitudes and systems that protect older people and support families while fiercely maintaining older people’s right to make frivolous and imprudent decisions about their own assets.
Tilse, et al (2007) Managing the Financial Assets of Older People: Balancing independence and protection. British Journal of Social Work. 37(3):565-72 .
McCawley, A. et al.(2006) Access to assets; Older people with impaired capacity and finanical abuse. Journal of Adult Protection 8(1):20-33
Tilse, et al. (2005) Minding the Money. Ageing and Society 25(2): 217-227.
Tilse, et al. (2005) Older People’s Assets: A Contested Site. Australasian Journal on Ageing 24(Supplement): S51–S56.
Setterlund, et al. (2003) Older People and Substitute Decision Making Legislation: Limits to Informed Choice. Australasian Journal on Ageing 21(3): 128-133.
Tilse, et al. (2003) The Mismanagement of the Assets of Older People: The Concerns and Actions of Aged Care Workers. Australasian Journal on Ageing 22(1): 9-14.