The National Careline Blog

Elder Abuse and The National Careline Helpline

15 January 2021

Elder abuse is a subject that is very upsetting to talk about but a great many of the callers contacting The National Careline helpline are calling for help because someone that they care about, or they themselves, are being abused. The abuse can be physical or financial, often both, and in the majority of cases, the abuser is a family member.

An example of a call to The National Careline recently

The call involved a sister who had arranged a Lasting Power of Attorney for her mother without informing her siblings. Subsequently her mother went into hospital and then into care. The sister with the LPA did not like her other sisters, they had never been close so, to prevent her sisters from interfering with her financial plans for mother, she instructed the care home not to let her sisters have access to their mother unless they used the password that she had provided.

The remaining sisters were thus prevented from seeing their mother, they didn’t know what was happening with her and they were heartbroken. Their mother was very upset and thought that her other daughters had abandoned her. This was an action that was definitely not in mother’s interests. Yet many elderly people are in this position with siblings abusing their powers under the LPA, when all they want to do is enjoy what time is left to them in peace.

Calls like this come in on a regular basis but the family upset and heartbreak that is caused can be largely prevented by planning ahead and working together as a family.

So what can be done by those who witness these awful things happening to friends and family, or, as in the case of the care home above, how not to inadvertently become part of the abuse?

Firstly, if you feel that an attorney is not acting in the best interests of the person they are acting for, you should report it to the Office of the Public Guardian. Here is the link  OPG’s safeguarding team.

The Court of Protection and Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) are part of the same process and their names are often used interchangeably. The simplest explanation is that the Court makes the decisions and the OPG handles the ongoing administration. The two bodies work together, but with separate defined roles.

The Public Guardian is authorised to investigate allegations of abuse by court appointed deputies and attorneys who are acting under a registered lasting/enduring power of attorney or court order. Anyone who has concerns about a deputy or attorney can report them to the OPG safeguarding team. They will carry out an investigation if there are grounds to suggest that the best interests of the person at risk are not being met.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is a law that protects vulnerable people over the age of 16 around decision-making. Every adult, whatever their disability, has the right to make their own decisions wherever possible. … People should always support a person to make their own decisions if they can.

Remember the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is designed to protect and empower people who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment. It applies to people aged 16 and over. … Examples of people who may lack capacity include those with dementia.

There are 5 key principles underpinning the Mental Capacity Act

1 A presumption of capacity – Every adult has the right to make his or her own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise.

2 Individuals being supported to make their own decisions – a person must be given all practicable help before anyone treats them as not being able to make their own decisions.

3 Unwise decisions – People have the right to make decisions that others might regard as unwise or eccentric. You cannot treat someone as lacking capacity for this reason.

4 Best interests – Anything done for or on behalf of a person who lacks mental capacity must be done in their best interests.

5 Less restrictive option – Someone making a decision or acting on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must consider whether it is possible to decide or act in a way that would interfere less with the person’s rights and freedoms of action, or whether there is a need to decide, or act at all. Any intervention should be weighed up in the particular circumstances of the case.

There is no doubt, that it is important to make decisions concerning your finances and welfare in good time when you are fit and well and there is no question about your legal capacity to make decisions. As well as others knowing that you have taken care of matters with the ones you have appointed knowing their duties, you will also gain the valuable protection available under the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) that, should anything go awry, you will have the investigative arm of the OPG to ensure that you are safe from abuse.

More details are available on the following websites:-