Sumary of Experts warn about increasing financial abuse of older people in the UK:
- Proposed changes to UK law risk substantially increasing financial abuse of older people, warn experts in The BMJ today.
- Plans by the Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice to modernize marriage law and Lasting Powers of Attorney aim to make procedures simpler and easier and both include limited safeguards, write Professor Carolyn Stephens and colleagues in an editorial.
- Globally, one in six older people (defined as aged 60 and older) face abuse, particularly those with dementia, the authors explain.
- Physical abuse includes violence, but psychological and financial abuse is recorded as the most common form of harm, including manipulation of older people to obtain assets through marriage, wills, and abuse of lasting powers of attorney.
- Yet they argue that controlling and coercive behavior by perpetrators, and social isolation of victims, makes elder abuse difficult to detect or tackle.
- Stephens and colleagues acknowledge that new domestic abuse crimes have been introduced into UK law, but say a lack of basic data on the scale of elder abuse and little evidence to quantify action taken by responsible authorities means we do not yet know whether these changes have led to more action against abuse.
- Related StoriesAnd they point to data showing that the vast majority of domestic abuse cases, including forced marriage and potential abuse of power of attorney, ended in no action.
- They believe that healthcare professionals have a vital role in protecting vulnerable older people from abuse and they call for urgent guidance along with more training and support in how to detect, record, and report suspected abuse, so appropriate action can be taken.