The relationship became an accumulation of abusive behavior – both psychological and financial, the retiree’s family says.
The acquisition of property through deceptive relationships with older people is becoming an increasingly common problem.
A couple who wish to remain anonymous said their family experience of elder abuse revealed the flaws in the law.
The couple’s elderly family member has formed a companion relationship with a younger person.
The relationship lasted three years and began with the senior believing it to be a truly trusting relationship.
The younger person led the couple and other family members to believe that they would care for the older person.
A year into the relationship, the elderly family member suffered a stroke.
It was then that the family realized that the older person had transferred ownership of their home to the younger person.
It was clearly expected that the elderly person would continue to live there all their life, receiving adequate care rather than having to live in a care institution.
“It’s one of those things where you know it’s wrong and you know society in general wouldn’t accept it but it’s not against any law even if you could easily and conclusively prove the things that happened,” the couple said.
After three years of the relationship, the senior reported continued abuse and neglect to her social worker.
By this point, their then-partner had acquired the house and had direct access to the bank accounts, although he did not have a lasting power of attorney.
The couple was the elderly person’s perpetual proxy for personal welfare.
On one occasion, the housekeeper the couple had hired for extra support found the elderly person in bed with diarrhoea, after a weekend alone. The youngest who had gone away for the weekend had called the housekeeper on Friday and told her that they weren’t needed this weekend.
The couple said the family member did not disclose the situation sooner due to embarrassment and fear of retaliation from their partner.
The couple described the relationship between the older person and the younger as an accumulation of abusive behavior, both psychological and financial.
“Legal experts have said this person is a fraudster because of everything that has built up over time, but you can’t use this process formally or legally.”
Unlike other forms of abuse, reporting processes differ in elder abuse.
“Older people are almost more vulnerable because of this. They can be kicked out of their own homes.”
At some point, after the youngster got the house, he completely tore it down to renovate it. But all the while, a member of our family was still living there,” the couple said.
“When I later asked the elderly family member why he hadn’t moved or stayed with someone else, he said he was afraid that if he left he wouldn’t be to let in.”
The couple said that during this time the family member experienced other negligent behavior.
However, when their social worker became aware of the abuse, a long process of legal action began.
Meanwhile, the senior has passed away and their last request to the couple was “just get my house back”.
After spending well over six figures in legal fees over several years, the couple couldn’t get the house back mainly because no laws were apparently broken by the younger one.
The couple said their experience gave them insight into the barriers in the legal, financial and health processes around supporting elder abuse.
The couple are worried because they see nothing happening to stop this type of abuse from continuing. This youngster is free to start over.