Newly appointed Elder Lawyer says elder abuse on the rise

Newly appointed Elder Lawyer says elder abuse on the rise

An experienced elder lawyer who has just joined Catherine Henry Lawyers said elder abuse is one of several issues older people living in regional NSW are facing, and it is on the rise.

Tanya Chapman is now a Senior Associate at the Hunter based firm. She will work across its estate planning and elder law teams.

Tanya said the specialised field of elder law is still being understood but becoming a more prominent focus as Australia’s population ages.

“Elder law focuses on the needs of older people and covers everything from end-of-life planning, incapacity documents such as Power of Attorney, Enduring Guardian and Advanced Care Directives, to wills, aged care accommodation and granny flat agreements, loans to family members, and elder abuse,” Tanya said.

“It is essential that older persons are empowered to make fully informed decisions in their own best interests and are protected from abuse.”

A report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates that, pre-COVID, between 2 per cent and 14 per cent of older Australians were experiencing elder abuse in any given year, with financial abuse the most prevalent form. A December 2020 report released by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety estimates around 39 per cent of people living in Australian aged care facilities experience elder abuse in the form of neglect, emotional abuse or physical abuse.

The rise in elder abuse promoted the Australian Human Rights Commission to launch a campaign on the issue in October last year and there is currently a national advertising campaign on the topic. Tanya shares the Commission’s concern that COVID-19 has heightened the risk of elder abuse because social isolation is one of its drivers.

Tanya said that with an increased proportion of the community experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19, there is greater reliance on older family members to provide financial support and housing. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of estate planning and having incapacity documents in place.

“As we grow older, and live longer, good legal advice is increasingly necessary to navigate moving out of the family home, managing and passing on wealth, and ensuring our healthcare wishes are respected,” Tanya said.

The firm’s Principal, Catherine Henry, said Tanya’s extensive experience in elder law will help her firm to continue to give older clients in regional NSW the best legal advice and support.

Prior to practicing as an elder lawyer with a Central Coast firm and at the Elder Abuse Legal Service within the NSW Legal Aid Commission, Tanya worked at Sydney’s College of Law as a senior content developer. At the NSW Legal Aid Commission, she wrote and produced an Age, Abuse & Justice YouTube video series and podcast to increase community awareness of elder abuse.

Her understanding of the legal issues and the experiences of older Australian’s has been further honed through her community work.

For the past four years Tanya has volunteered with the Community Visitor Scheme – a support program that links socially isolated residential age care residents with a volunteer for regular visits and companionship. She has also provided free seminars on wills and incapacity documents to people recently diagnosed with dementia and their family members as part of IntegratedLiving’s Dementia program.

Tanya has a Master of Law degree from Kyushu University in Japan, a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Law from the University of Canberra, and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Australian National University (ANU). She is a member of the Law Society of NSW as well as the Newcastle and Central Coast law societies.

Meanwhile, the firm’s skills in health and medial law have again been recognised with Catherine Henry Lawyers and its Principal, Catherine Henry, both appearing in the prestigious 2020 Doyles Guide lists of NSW’s top medical negligence compensation lawyers and law firms. This is the fourth year in a row that Catherine has been recognised and the second year in a row that the firm has been recognised.

IMAGE | Tanya Chapman joins Catherine Henry Lawyers as Senior Associate.

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