Elder abuse -lack of contact with family

Posted on March 13th, 2019

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In NAD [2018] NSWCATGD 1 (a case involving the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal) an elderly mother diagnosed with dementia was taken to live with her son.  One of the mother’s daughters complained that as a result of this move, she was denied the ability to see her mother.  She complained that her brother had no landline at his home and if she rang to speak to her mother, she was denied telephone access.  The distance between her home and her brother’s home also made it very difficult for her to visit her mother.  The brother said that his sister only had to “knock” on his “front door” and she would be let in.   The Tribunal was not convinced.  The members stated that under the Guardianship Act 1987 there is an obligation to protect the mother from “neglect, abuse and exploitation”.  The Tribunal noted that there is no definition of “abuse” in the Act and whilst the term is “commonly understood to refer to forms of physical violence”, a more nuanced understanding, particularly in relation to older people can include “stopping an older person from seeing family and friends”.  The Tribunal therefore appointed an independent guardian to “make decisions” for the elderly mother with an “access function” so that the guardian could make decisions about the manner in which contact and access could take place between the mother and members of her family.

Felicity Wardhaugh is a Special Counsel at Mullane & Lindsay, and practises extensively in Wills and Estate Planning, Commercial and other Litigation and Employment LawIf you require any assistance in these areas please contact Felicity Wardhaugh or contact our Newcastle office.

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