Thoughtfully prepared Powers of Attorney can reduce the risk
of elder abuse for people living with dementia.
Late last year, Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) partnered with
Dementia Australia (DA) to develop a project which aimed to prevent elder abuse
occurring for a particularly high risk group of older people – being those
living with dementia. Upon receiving a grant of funding for the project, SRV
then worked with DA to provide one-hour community legal information sessions to
over 150 people across Victoria who were newly diagnosed with dementia, and
their families and friends.
SRV advocate Mandy Walmsley and lawyers Melanie Perkins
presented the sessions. They spoke about the benefits of having a Power of
Attorney (POA). They said that POAs did not always have to be standardised, but
could be tailored to an individual’s circumstances. As an added component of
the program, SRV offered to prepare individualised POAs for participants in
‘One critical thing we talk about in the sessions is,
regardless of whether they have a POA or not, is how important it is for people
to have conversations with their families and friends about what they want and
don’t want,’ Mandy said.
‘If those conversations have occurred, it is much more likely
that if a person loses capacity to make decisions for themselves, the decisions
that are made for them are decisions that they would have chosen to make for
Melanie said that the legislation around Powers of Attorney provided additional protection.
‘If the worst does occur, and an Attorney makes bad financial
decisions or there is misappropriation of money, having a POA means there is
the possibility of compensation under the relevant legislation,’ she said.
‘This protection doesn’t exist if you just give someone access to internet
banking to help you pay your bills.’
‘People who have been diagnosed with dementia understandably
focus on their health. These sessions
help people living with dementia to also consider legal implications and to
plan for the future.’
An advocate and lawyer from SRV and a counsellor from DA
facilitated all the sessions.
‘This ensured the legal information given was based on
therapeutic principles and an empowerment approach, including the provision of
support for non-legal but associated issues facing the individual,’ Mandy said.
‘It also allowed for screening for elder abuse.’
The sessions were delivered between February and August in
locations including Frankston, Rosebud, Ballarat and Geelong.
The partnership was funded by the Victorian Government’s
Integrated Services Fund, through the Federation of Community Legal Centres
SRV were very pleased to be awarded a second year of funding
for the 2020 year. While continuing our work with Dementia Australia, the aim is
to extend the program to culturally and linguistically diverse people living
with dementia, their carers, family and friends.
‘We aim to deliver a further 22 sessions in partnership with
Dementia Australia later this year and early next year,’ Melanie says.