The proposed changes to UK law are likely to increase fi

Proposed changes to UK law risk increasing financial abuse of older people, experts warn

Health professionals have a critical role to play in protecting older people from abuse

Proposed changes to UK law risk dramatically increasing financial abuse of older people, warn experts BMJ today.

Plans by the Law Commission and the Department of Justice to modernize marriage law and durable powers of attorney aim to make procedures simpler and easier and both include limited safeguards, write Professor Carolyn Stephens and colleagues in an editorial.

But lawyers and experts argue that, in their current form, they are unlikely to prevent vulnerable people, especially older people with failing abilities, from being coerced into marriage or obtaining powers of attorney.

Globally, one in six older people (defined as 60 and over) face abuse, especially those with dementia, the authors explain.

Physical violence includes violence, but psychological and financial violence is recorded as the most common form of harm, including the manipulation of older people to obtain property through marriage, wills and the abuse of powers of attorney. sustainable.

Yet they argue that the controlling and coercive behavior of abusers and the social isolation of victims make elder abuse difficult to detect or combat.

Indeed, a recent House of Lords report described elder abuse, particularly those with dementia, as “complex, poorly measured and hidden”, while the UK’s General Medical Council recommends that professionals health officials are familiarized with the different types of maltreatment in order to identify patients at risk, noting that many abuses are now criminal offenses.

Stephens and colleagues acknowledge that new domestic violence crimes have been introduced into UK law, but say a lack of basic data on the extent of elder abuse and little evidence to quantify actions taken by responsible authorities means that we do not yet know if these changes have led to more action against abuse.

For example, they note that the Crime Survey for England and Wales excluded respondents over the age of 59 until 2017 (the survey still excludes adults over 74) and does not survey group residences, excluding elderly people in nursing homes.

And they report data showing that the vast majority of domestic violence cases, including forced marriage and potential abuse of power of attorney, have ended in deadlock.

They believe that healthcare professionals have a vital role to play in protecting vulnerable older people from abuse, and they are asking for urgent advice as well as increased training and support on how to detect, register and respond. report suspected abuse, so that appropriate action can be taken.

This view is supported by Caroline Abrahams, Director of Charity at Age UK in a related opinion piece.

She explains that a substantial number of older people experience financial, emotional and physical abuse, but older people are largely missing from official statistics on domestic violence.

Age UK has successfully campaigned to change this, which Abrahams said “should shed light on levels of domestic violence among older people – a hidden and rarely mentioned problem – and stimulate new forms of support”.

She also points out that domestic violence does not only occur between older partners, but between older people and their adult children, and others close to them as well, and suggests that healthcare professionals working with Older people are in a good position to spot situations in which an older person may be at risk or a victim of violence.

She recognizes the challenges involved, but says the protection training and awareness that health professionals receive must now include not only identifying domestic violence alongside other forms of violence, but also how this is experienced by the elderly and how to deal with the problems.

“By breaking the taboo, we will be doing an important service to all those affected and we will give them a better chance of getting the help they need,” she concludes.


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