Got to our Info Hub Covid-19 Resources for more information. This section contains materials that offer important information about what the CoVID-19 rules and regulations mean to you, as well as carers and health practitioners working with older Australians.
Older Australians, and in particular those who are vulnerable, frail or have chronic illness, are particularly at risk of Covid-19 and Seniors Rights Service has been at the forefront of the community’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As at the end of August, Seniors Rights Service had received over 1800 calls specifically related to Covid-19. This represents a three-fold increase in calls compared with six months ago—an unprecedented increase in demand for our services across all areas of our practice—and has given us an in-depth understanding of the many complex economic, social and psychological impacts the pandemic has had on senior Australians.
We also provided on the ground advocacy services at Newmarch House in Western Sydney, as that aged care facility responded at the time to Australia’s second biggest cluster of Covid-19 cases with 71 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in residents and staff and 19 residents dying from the virus. We made over 170 calls to the residents and families and provided onsite advocacy support over 4 days during the height of the infection there. Seniors Rights Service also held weekly zoom meetings at which the families of residents were able to voice their concerns, ask questions and get our advice and support.
There has also been a 90% increase in people presenting with elder abuse issues to our social support service. Seniors Rights Service believes this is due most likely to increased financial stress brought on by the economic downturn due to theh pandemic. Seniors Rights Service has also observed an increase in the number of older people reporting stress and anxiety to do with the impacts of Covid-19 on their lives, their increased isolation from family and caregivers, and greater potential for abuse, both financial and psychological, of older people where their family members are also under increased pressure and strain. Seniors Rights Service is anticipating that as the economic and social effects of the pandemic play out across the community in coming months, these impacts on older Australians will intensify.
CASE STUDY 1
A client reported her daughter and son in law coerced her to sign over the title of her house.
She is currently getting pro bono legal advice after a warm referral from Seniors Rights Service. Her adult daughter has stopped her from seeing her grandchildren. Covid-19 has highlighted the impact of this loss for her. She reports pre-Covid she was able to go out and was distracted by other activities. Now she is isolated with her thoughts and becoming depressed and anxious. She thinks the isolation is causing her to be increasingly confused and she is worried about her cognition. There are serious concerns for her health and wellbeing. The Seniors Rights Service social worker is continuing to support her during this time.
CASE STUDY 2
A client’s family forced her to sell her house in New Zealand and to move to Australia after her husband died. She now lives in a caravan park. Her grandson who also holds her Power of Attorney said he would put the money left over from the sale of the house into a joint bank account ‘for a rainy day’. The older person did not realize that she could not withdraw her money from the joint account without her grandson’s signature. However, she has not seen her grandson since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is also not seeing other members of her family as she is particularly vulnerable regularly having to be on oxygen. Her grandson says it is for her own safety that he is not seeing her but he has also stopped returning her calls. She cannot access her money and is confined to her mobile home feeling increasingly isolated and is increasingly worried about her financial security. This case study highlights that there are currently few safeguards to ensure the POA acts with the best wishes of the person in mind. Seniors Rights Service believed that her grandson has used COVID-19 as an excuse to deny the older person access to her own money. With the client’s permission, Seniors Rights Service has spoken to the grandson and explained his grandmother’s rights and the requirement that he as the Power of Attorney is required to act in the best wishes of his grandmother and subsequently, the grandson agreed to close the joint bank account his grandmother could have sole access to her funds, as is her wish.
CASE STUDY 3
An 85 year-old woman rang Seniors Rights Service stating that her 30 year old granddaughter decided to move into her house saying that she would help her grandmother and look after her. However, the woman did not want her granddaughter to live with her as she was expected to pay for everything in return for the care and also to look after her granddaughter’s child who is 3 years old. The woman also feared that her granddaughter was taking drugs. Recently, because of COVID-19, the granddaughter has now moved her boyfriend, who has lost his job, into the house without asking her grandmother’s permission. The woman had never met the man before and feels that they just do what they want with no regard for her. She rang Seniors Rights Service asking for advice about what she can do.