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first_imgFor some time now, Australia’s population has been rapidly ageing, sadly coinciding with the rise of elderly abuse incidents. In 2007 alone there were approximately 87,220 cases of elder abuse, and it is predicted that by 2037 there will be a 13 per cent increase, with numbers reaching more than 200,000.But according to the Australian Greek Welfare Society’s (AGWS) community education officer, Antonios Maglis, the challenging nature of elder abuse is that often the victim doesn’t recognise it as abuse and is unaware of their rights. “People come to us for financial assistance because they can’t pay a bill, and through the initial assessment we find for example that the son has separated and moved in with his elderly mother and supposedly he’s the carer. But things have changed in the house and now the elderly mother hasn’t got access to her income, her pension, expenses rise and she’s got unexpected bills,” he tells Neos Kosmos.In severe cases, Mr Maglis and his colleagues have encountered instances of adult children coaxing their elderly parents into signing documents which, unbeknownst to them, grant them full access to their finances. This has then led to the deduction of large sums of money, and the ability to take out a loan in their name, without the elderly’s person’s knowledge.“They’re not fully aware at times of the possible negative connotations of what can happen if things go wrong, and that they could potentially lose their house,” explains Mr Maglis.But often the most confronting part about identifying cases of elder abuse is that they are being manipulated in a relationship based on trust.“That’s the difference with other types of abuse. They know this person, they love this person. It’s harder to talk about it because it’s your own child or a relative, not a stranger down the street who attacks you and takes your bag, for example,” he says.While the perpetrators vary, many cases involve ‘boomerang kids’ – adult children who return to live with their elderly parents following the breakdown of their relationships and often returning with a sense of entitlement and a ‘You’re my mum, you’re my dad, you will help me’ mentality.“It is often the expectation of middle aged children that their parents have to do this for them. They have to give them the house, they have to change the name on the account, they owe them that,” Mr Maglis explains.These pressures can often lead an already vulnerable victim to become further isolated from their family and friends, by way of losing their independence, space and finances. There are also cases where abuse is unintentional, often coming in the form of neglect where the person is dependent on their child for their basic needs such as food, clothing and transportation. “People get very busy with their lives, or the carer, especially in cases of dementia, becomes overwhelmed, but it’s still considered abuse because that person misses out on all those basic human rights,” he says. To avoid such situations arising, Mr Maglis says planning is vital. “What we suggest to people is to have a chat with our social workers about all those issues. Make a care plan, put powers of attorney in place, write your will, and have your wishes clearly stated so the carer knows what you want. In this way you minimise the risk of finding yourself in an unfavourable situation,” he says.While elder abuse is an issue across all cultural groups, there is a value system, not unique to the Greek culture, that often makes it harder for to seek help. “For first generation Greeks it can be a big deal because they’re not used to discussing these issues openly and accessing services,” he says, adding that Greek Australians come from a collectivist culture, where what is good for the group is more important than what’s good for the individual, with the added worry of τι θα πεί ο κόσμος? (What will everyone say?) To raise awareness and breakthrough the stigma, the AGWS has extended its services to elderly Greek Australians, hosting workshops that raise awareness on how to identify abuse, what their legal rights are, and where to get help.“The more we talk about it, the easier it will be for people to come out and say ‘that’s happening to me too’. It’s about enabling them and helping them realise that they’re safe and that their confidentiality is going to be respected.”If you or someone you know is interested in the AGWS services, visit www.agws.com.au or call (03) 9388 9998. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more