Marianna is an 85 year old who is renting privately on her own. She contacted our service because she had been told her lease is not going to be renewed and she needed help to find a place to live that she could afford. She spoke with our social support worker and said she was feeling very overwhelmed by the idea of moving in a pandemic. She also disclosed she has been feeling alone since the pandemic hit and she kept thinking about just jumping out the window as it all seems too hard at the moment.
Our social support worker spent some time with Marianna and assessed her need for urgent help. As a result, with her permission, we linked her into a local housing support service and a community mental health service for long term localised support. As part of our COVID-19 response, our social worker booked fortnightly phone appointments for follow up and phone counselling with Marianna
Angie was in despair. Her mother had authorised Angie’s sister, Jessica, to be a signatory on her bank account. But Jessica had a drug addiction and had taken money from her mother’s account in $2,000 and $3,000 lots.
Angie’s mum said she did not recall signing the authority, so Angie rang Seniors Rights Service to find out what, if anything, her mum could do. We told Angie that if a person with capacity voluntarily signs an authority without duress or undue influence, there is no recourse against the bank, since the bank is acting within the terms of the authority.
The only remedy would be if Angie’s mum had made it clear to Jessica (preferably in writing) that access to the account was given solely so she could spend funds in her mother’s best interests. In that case, the mother could take debt recovery action against Jessica for misappropriation of funds. However, we also pointed to the possible futility of taking action against someone like Jessica, who has little or no money or assets.
Helena lived in her own home and, after being assessed for home care services, received a Home Care Package Level 2. However, she was not happy with the service and wanted to move to a new provider. She was not aware she had signed an agreement stating she had to pay an exit fee of $700. She was also required to give 28 days’ notice, but did not want services after she was about to start with another provider.
The advocate assisted Helena with the issue of fees for no service. The advocate also advised her not to sign anything without reading and understanding the contract, and suggested that she discuss the next agreement with the new provider as well as an advocate.
The issue of 28 days’ notice was taken to the community liaison meeting with the Commonwealth Department of Health as it is unfair and seems to be common practice.
John and his wife, Toula, were keen swimmers. So when they inquired about moving into a retirement village, they were delighted when the onsite sales representative gave them a disclosure statement that said an in-ground swimming pool would be among the facilities to come.
Pleased to have the convenience of an onsite pool, John and Toula moved into the village and waited for the staged development to proceed. But five years after the pool was supposed to have been constructed, the couple were still waiting.
Eventually, following on-going correspondence from John and other residents, and then from Seniors Rights Service on behalf of John, the operator advised it had no intention of building the swimming pool. We prepared an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for an order seeking compensation for John for the lack of the promised pool.
Visiting a local men’s shed for support and social contact was a highlight in Michael’s life. But when he moved into an aged care home, his family and staff told him he could no longer attend. This upset Michael a great deal.
A Seniors Rights Service advocate advised Michael that he had the right to maintain and form relationships of his choice. Michael had capacity and a right to take risks, and had not had any falls. There was no legal order preventing him from attending.
The advocate also discussed risks and duty of care from the aged care home’s point of view, and suggested Michael’s doctor get involved in case there was a medical reason he should be aware of.
Dot lived in a 1960s block of 20 units that had not been well maintained. Literally falling apart, it needed major repairs to common property, including all exterior windows and ground-level garages. Essential work was also needed to ensure that interior doors and windows facing into the only stairwell complied with fire safety standards. The local council had refused to approve any development applications until this work was done and certified. The owners’ corporation was also having increasing problems getting insurance because of the building’s poor condition.
Dot complained to Seniors Rights Service that, as a pensioner, she could not afford the levies to cover the extensive work required. We advised Dot that the work had to be done. We told her she should vote for the finance option presented by the strata committee that would allow the longest payback time, and come to an arrangement about paying in instalments. We suggested she seek financial advice on whether a reverse mortgage or the Centrelink Pension Loans Scheme would be suitable ways to raise the money she needed.
Maria’s daughter was distraught. Her mother was receiving palliative care in an aged care home and was in a great deal of pain at night. But her daughter had been told that no one could give pain medication after hours, as this required a registered nurse.
The daughter contacted Seniors Rights Service and, after gaining authority from Maria, an advocate contacted the home’s manager, who confirmed that the registered nurse started work at 8am. This meant Maria was in pain and distress for more than eight hours.
The advocate advised Maria’s daughter to contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner if this issue was not resolved. The advocate also said to Maria that anyone may call a locum doctor or ambulance if a resident’s needs are of concern. This case highlights the role of skilled nurses in aged care homes.
George and Anna were struggling at home. The elderly couple, living in a rural town, both received Home Care Packages Level 2. George had been assessed as needing a higher level of care but there was a long waiting list.
After nine months, both became unwell and needed hospitalisation. Anna agreed to enter an aged care home as George refused to go without her. A person befriended the couple and it was clear to the manager of the aged care home that they were trusting that person with their finances. This included accessing their pension and helping them make large purchases they did not need.
A Seniors Rights Service advocate worked with the couple and their care manager to inform them of their rights. They discussed the risk to their savings. The advocate also helped them write a care plan, outlining their wishes so they could settle in the home while regaining and retaining their independence.
When Arthur guaranteed a loan for his daughter, he handed over his physical title deeds to the bank. He felt slightly worried about this, as the deeds were essential to historical research he was conducting and he wanted them back. To put his mind at rest, he sent a letter along with the deeds, asking for them to be returned to him eventually.
Arthur’s daughter repaid the loan and his guarantee was never called upon. But the bank did not return the deeds. Fearing they may have been shredded, Arthur contacted Seniors Rights Service. We advised him to write to the bank officer concerned and, if this did not resolve the situation, to follow up with a complaint to the bank’s complaints team and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
We also explained that he could contact NSW Land Registry Services to find out how much it would cost to get a copy of the deeds. If the original deeds had, in fact, been destroyed, he could ask the bank to pay the replacement costs.