Research Page

The rise – and risk – of ‘early inheritance syndrome’

Children with early inheritance syndrome feel a sense of entitlement to their parents’ assets. They are not prepared to wait until their parents die. These impatient children seek ways for their parents to give them money, or interfere in the management of their parents’ assets to protect what they see as their entitlement.


Accreditation too lax

Letter, The Age

While there are some excellent aged care homes, recent reports of medical negligence, neglect and inadequate personal care suggest that numerous providers prioritise profits over residents’ quality of life. How do such homes pass accreditation? Ten years ago, a Senate committee held an inquiry into the sector. Its report criticised the accreditation standards, finding them too generalised to effectively measure care outcomes. Unfortunately, vague phrases such as adequate nourishment and hydration, effective continence management, optimum levels of mobility and sufficient staff continue to be used.

Consider the case of a friend. She has been classified correctly as a “falls risk” – meaning she is not permitted to walk without a staff member. Due to insufficient staff and a culture that sees many residents spend most of the day immobile, her son has sole responsibility for “maximising her mobility”.

Given that the accreditation process enables aged-care facilities to receive government funding, it should be a rigorous assessment not a rubber stamp.

Sarah Russell, Aged Care Matters

Aged-care industry in a downward spiral

In what can only be seen as bad news for older people across the country, the “industry” supposed to support and care for them is in trouble. Deep trouble.

The signs are there for all to see. The handsomely government-subsidised aged-care industry model is set on a trajectory of decline.


Reason to complain

Letter, The Age

John Simpson (Opinion, 2/10) spoke on behalf of all citizens deeply concerned about the quality of residential aged care services. Bipartisan reforms introduced in 2013 decreased regulation and pushed consumer choice. But the “consumers” are often frail, elderly people, many with dementia. How can they negotiate fees and demand a high quality service?

It is no surprise that the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’s first annual report shows an 11 per cent increase in complaints. Relatives complain because residents’ needs are unmet – when incontinence pads are not changed regularly, when bruises appear or skin tears, and when pressure sores are not treated appropriately, in some cases turning gangrenous. Complaints are also made when residents suffer from malnutrition and/or dehydration and are chemically restrained. The list goes on.

The industry cannot keep dismissing such complaints as a one-off problem. Incidents occur in aged care homes because providers employ too few staff.

When taxpayers are subsidising the care of elderly people, the public’s investment needs to be protected in the form of regulation, mandated staff ratios and a rigorous accreditation system. The care of vulnerable older people is too important to be left to the free market.

Sarah Russell, Northcote

Aged need protections

Letter, The Age

Graeme Croft refers to the slump in share price of aged care companies (Letters, 6/9). This followed analysts downgrading aged care stocks after the government issued new guidelines. After the budget announced changes to the Aged Care Funding Instrument, causing providers concern about profits, some privately owned aged care homes responded by charging additional service fees, including “capital refurbishment fees” and “asset replacement contributions”. These fees improved profits but did not provide any benefit to residents. The Department of Health has announced that these types of fees contravened the legislation.

So while I agree with Croft that the industry needs serious reform I don’t agree with his conclusion. The care of vulnerable older people is too important to be left to the free market.  In an unregulated environment, these extra charges, up to $18 a day, would have gone unnoticed.

Croft also refers to the “high standards” set by the government. On the contrary, legislation falls remarkably short of demanding high standards. Unlike childcare centres, there is no requirement for aged care homes to have mandated staff-to-resident ratios. The accreditation and outcome standards also remain woefully inadequate. “Consumers” of aged care are often frail. They do not have the capacity to “drive” the residential aged care sector.

Sarah Russell, Northcote

Bags of money in aged care


Letter, The Age

Residential aged care is big business. The Aged Care Financing Authority estimates the sector requires an investment of $31 billion over the next decade. Most of this will come from the private sector (The Age, 29/7). The bipartisan “Living longer living better” reforms have decreased regulation in aged-care homes. Vulnerable older people are now “consumers” in a market-based system. Deregulation serves the interests of providers, not residents. Paradoxically, private providers of aged-care homes lobby for a decrease in regulation and an increase in government subsidies. Leading Age Services Australia, the peak body representing private providers, is using images of “money bags” to promote their funding workshops to optimise government subsidies. This ad suggests that profits trump residents’ care. Recent calls for camera surveillance in aged-care homes divert the focus away from the need for systemic change. The care of vulnerable older Australians is too important to be traded on the market like any other commodity.

Sarah Russell, Northcote

Silence on elder abuse

Letter, The Age

Mr Turnbull responded quickly and appropriately to Four Corner’s report into the abuse of youths in the NT corrections system. How long before he responds to Monday night’s ABC’s 7:30 program into elder abuse? Over the past few years, there have been numerous reports of elder abuse in aged care homes. There have also been several government inquiries into aged care homes. The federal government’s ‘‘Future of Australia’s aged care sector workforce’’ (2016) received 73 submissions from staff and relatives who are extremely concerned about declining standards of care in aged care homes. How many more inquiries describing neglect and elder abuse will be needed before a royal commission into residential aged care is held?

Unlike in child-care centres, hospitals and schools, there is no federal legislative requirement for aged care homes to have mandated staff-to-resident ratios or skill pre-requisites; or even have a registered nurse on site. Without registered nurses in aged care homes, the risk of elder abuse increases.

To ensure older Australians receive the quality of care they deserve, aged care homes require greater scrutiny, accountability and transparency.

Sarah Russell, Northcote

Elder abuse is often family violence


Financial elder abuse is often family violence. Research shows that women over the age of 80 are most at risk of financial elder abuse, with adult sons being the most common perpetrators.  It is often a silent crime – unreported and unacknowledged. Like all silent crimes perpetrated mostly against women, financial abuse will be difficult to police.

Claudia Castle’s examples demonstrate that the opportunities for children to act inappropriately are enormous. There are no formal mechanisms to ensure that financial powers of attorney act in an older person’s best interest.

Boomers with early inheritance syndrome feel a sense of entitlement to their parents’ assets. They make ageist and sexist assumptions that devalue the rights of their elderly parents. They often justify their actions by saying: ”Mum doesn’t need money now, and it’s going to be mine anyway.”

For financial elder abuse to become a criminal offence, attitudes towards older people, particularly older women, need to change.

Sarah Russell