Helpful terms

Compass has developed a list of helpful terms to assist you with the particular phrases, acronyms and jargon that are often used in relation to elder abuse.


ACAT or aged care assessment

In order to access government-subsidised aged care services, either in the home or in residential care, a person must meet with an aged care assessment team member. ACAT assessments are free and can be organised by contacting My Aged Care.

Account fraud

When somebody has access to your funds without your knowledge or authority, or when someone has gained access to your bank account through a scam. People are often unaware of the fraud until notified by their bank, account statement or a sudden lack of funds. See Safeguarding against scams, frauds and identity thefts.


Someone appointed to make financial decisions for a person who no longer has the capacity to make them. This role is also called a Financial Manager (NSW) or Manager (ACT).

Advance care directives

A formal version of an advance care plan, an advance care directive allows a person to document their preferences for how they will be cared for and who can make decisions when they are unable to.

Each state and territory has different advance care directives, but they all allow a person to state their beliefs, values and goals, medical treatment preferences and what will be important to them towards the end of their life.

Health professionals and family members are legally obliged to follow a valid advance care directive, so it is important to review and update your documents as your circumstances change. For information about making an advance care directive, visit the Advance Care Directives page on Compass.


The law presumes that money transferred from a parent to a child is an ‘advancement’. This means that the law will presume the money was a gift unless the parent can prove otherwise. For this reason, it is important to make it clear to the recipient whether transferred money is a gift or a loan and to document the decision. A loan should be accompanied by a written agreement of the repayment plan.

Advance Personal Plan

In the Northern Territory, an Enduring Power of Attorney is called an Advance Personal Plan. It is the document that allows you to appoint a financial decision-maker. See Advance personal plan in the Northern Territory for more information.

Advocacy services

These are community services designed to provide individual support and inform people of their rights and options. Each state and territory has advocacy services for older people and/or for legal assistance, aged care or health assistance. Use the Compass ‘Find a Service Provider'


Ageism is discrimination and prejudice against a person because of their age. For older people, this can mean enduring negative stereotypes around their abilities and decision-making capacity as well as being marginalised within society by being given less respect, power and social status. Find out more about ageism.

Alternative attorney

An attorney is someone who is appointed to make decisions on your behalf. An alternative attorney is someone who acts for a specific time, such as when another attorney is overseas.

Alternative dispute resolution

Sometimes called ‘ADR’, alternative dispute resolution is a way of settling disputes instead of traditional court proceedings. It is less expensive than going to court and usually provides a quicker resolution.

There are various forms of alternative dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation and court- or tribunal-directed dispute resolution. All forms are facilitated by an independent or neutral professional who leads the discussion and tries to move it towards a resolution.


Protect your body from damage to cells caused by free radicals or unstable molecules. Eating a variety of colourful fresh foods increases your intake of antioxidants.

Assets test

A person’s ‘assets’ are their property and possessions. When you are applying for the Age Pension or Carer Payment, Services Australia will conduct an assets test to determine the value of your assets and decide how much you will be paid.

Assurance of support

Related to a Parent visa, an assurance of support requires the assurer (usually the adult child that the older person will be living with) to commit $10,000 to repay any social security benefits that the older person may access during the first 10 years of their residency in Australia. Find out more about assurance of support

Attorney or Enduring attorney

The person appointed under a power of attorney to make decisions on another person’s behalf. An attorney can be appointed for a specified time (such as when the principal person is overseas and wants another person to manage their financial affairs) or for all decisions into the future (enduring). For specific terminology relating to your state or territory visit Powers of Attorney.



Help to define how we like to be treated by others in relationships. Having clear boundaries and expectations can help protect our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.



This is an acronym used to refer to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It describes communities with diverse languages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, traditions, societal structures and religions. In Australia, the term is often used to describe communities whose members are migrants or speak a language other than English as their first language, which can sometimes become a barrier when health and legal information is not accessible. It is also noted that many English speakers who identify with a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, can face cultural barriers to accessible information and services.


This term is often used when talking about a person’s ability to make decisions for themselves and to understand the consequences of those decisions. Capacity should be presumed for all people unless it is proved that they have ‘lost capacity’. Advanced age or a diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean a person has diminished capacity.

A trusted person can be appointed to support the decision-making of someone with diminished capacity. A person can also nominate, or have appointed, a substitute decision-maker in the event that they no longer have capacity. Find out more about capacity

Carer or caregiver

Someone who gives care and support to a relative or friend who needs help with their day-to-day living is known as their carer or caregiver. In Australia, carers can access support through the Care Gateway.

Carer stress

Providing care for a family member or friend who is unwell, ageing or frail can be challenging. Sometimes it results in in physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that can affect the person’s ability to provide the care, and this is known as ‘carer stress’. Carer stress can increase the risk of elder abuse occurring or going undetected if the carer is unsupported and unable to provide proper care for an older person.

Civil and Administrative Tribunal

Civil and Administrative Tribunals exist in each state or territory. A tribunal can hear cases and resolve disputes through conferences, mediation and hearings. A tribunal can also appoint a guardian (or similar) to make personal, medical or financial decisions on behalf of someone who no longer has the capacity to make these decisions. Each jurisdiction will have different terminology and legislation supporting this.

Co-dependent relationship

When two people are dependent on one another for their day-to-day living. If one person in the relationship is experiencing hardship or stress, it may affect their ability to provide care to the other person, who can then become at risk of elder abuse or neglect.

Coercive control

A form of abuse, this term describes patterns of behaviour where a person seeks to control and manipulate the life of another person. The person using coercive control often uses intimidation and fear to keep their victim trapped in the relationship. See section on Coercive control.

Community-based aged care

Also called in-home aged care, community-based aged care includes services such as help with housework, personal care, meals and social support. These services are intended to help an older person stay living independently at home and are supported by government funding. To access in-home care, visit the My Aged Care website to arrange an assessment.

Conflict of interest

When appointing an attorney you will need to consider potential conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest can arise if you appoint as an attorney someone with whom you share property or a business, and they may benefit from decisions they make on your behalf.

Contributory parent visa

A Contributory Parent visa is similar to a Parent visa but requires significant financial contribution from the visa holder or their family, as well as an assurance of support (similar to a bond). Find out more about these visas.



Everyone has the right to make their own decisions and choices, including choices about where to live, how to live, their money and their health. Even when a person may not be able or willing to make financial or legal decisions, they can often still be able to make decisions about their daily life.

Supported or substitute decision-makers can be appointed for people who are no longer able to make their own decisions or who require assistance to do so.


When your body does not have enough fluids. Even mild dehydration can cause tiredness, poor concentration, muscle weakness, memory problems and slower reaction times. See The ABCs of dehydration.


An umbrella term that refers to a collection of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It can affect a person’s cognitive abilities, such as their thinking, memories, problem-solving, language use and behaviour. Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia, but there are others, including Lewy body disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.


As well as providing expertise on nutritional needs, a dietician can help ensure older people are able to enjoy food that is appropriate for cultural, personal or other preferences. For more information see The food they (don’t eat): elder abuse by neglect?


A common type of medication often called ‘fluid tablets’, diuretics are designed to remove excess fluid from your body to relieve some of the symptoms of heart problems. To maintain a good balance of hydration, people taking diuretics should discuss their fluid intake with their doctor.



While this term can be used to refer to any older person, the term ‘Elder’ has significance for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, where an Elder is someone who has someone who is recognised as a custodian of knowledge and lore and has permission to disclose knowledge and beliefs.

Elder abuse

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as ‘a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person.’

Elder abuse can come in many forms and can be financial, emotional or psychological, physical, sexual or neglect. Find out more about different types of elder abuse.

Enduring guardian

The term given in most states to a person appointed to make personal and medical treatment decisions on another’s behalf. For specific terminology relating to your state or territory visit Enduring Guardians.

Enduring power of attorney

A legal document that authorises an attorney to make legal and financial decisions on another person’s behalf if they lose capacity . Each state and territory has different rules and documentation around powers of attorney. Also known as an Advance Personal Plan (APP) in the Northern Territory. See Powers of Attorney.


An executor is the legal representative of a person who has died. When making a will, a person will appoint someone to be their executor to handle the practical steps of settling their affairs and estate. The executor also has legal authority to make all funeral and burial decisions. See Funeral Arrangement Disputes.


Family agreement or arrangement

This arrangement is one between an older person and someone else (often a family member) regarding care and living arrangements. It involves the older person exchanging their property or assets in return for housing and/or care as they age. It’s sometimes called an Assets for Care arrangement. Find out more about family agreements.

Family mediation

A way of resolving family tensions or disputes where you and your family members can talk about issues in a safe, supported environment and with the oversight of an independent person.

Financial abuse

The theft or misuse of a person’s money, assets or property is a form of elder abuse. Find out more about financial abuse.

Financial literacy

A person’s understanding of how to manage their money and their ability to make informed decisions about their financial situation is referred to as their ‘financial literacy’.

First Nations people

This term refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose ancestors were the first people of Australia, thousands of years before colonisation.

Future planning

Future planning is the process of considering how you want your future to look and what you might need to put in place now to achieve that. In the context of ageing, this might include appointing an enduring power of attorney in case you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself; making a will; and creating an advance care plan or directive for your future medical treatment. Learn more about Future Planning.


General power of attorney

A legal document that authorises an attorney to make legal and financial on a person’s behalf decisions for a specified period while they still have capacity. For example, when they are in hospital or overseas for a defined period.


This simply refers to money or an item given to another person without expectation of receiving anything in return. It’s advisable to always be clear whether financial or other exchanges with family members are a gift or loan and to document the terms of the exchange.

Centrelink has strict rules in place to ensure that people do not dispose of their assets by gifting them to family members or others in an effort to influence their eligibility for the age pension or aged care costs. A person can give away up to $30,000 over a 5-year period before it will affect their assets test. Older people should be aware that it is considered a gift if you sell or transfer an income or asset and get less in return than it was worth.

Grandparent alienation

Sometimes grandparents are denied meaningful access to and relationships with their grandchildren. This is called ‘grandparent alienation’. Find out more about grandparent alienation.

Granny flat

This term is used to describe a secondary dwelling added to a property. It can be a freestanding structure or an extension.

Granny flat interest

The granny flat interest is an exception to social security law to ensure that when an older person transfers title of their property, proceeds of their property, or other assets to a family member (or similar person) in return for care and accommodation it does not affect their eligibility for the age pension.

For the granny flat interest to apply, the place the older person has moved into (or stays in) must be a private home and, in return for paying with the proceeds or assets, the person must have been promised the right to live there for the rest of their life. Find out more about granny flat interest

Grant of probate

A grant of probate gives the executor of a will the authority to deal with the assets and liabilities of the estate. This includes collecting the assets, dealing with debts and accounts, and distributing the estate.


When a person uses the equity in their own property as guarantee that another person will be able to service a loan, they are acting as a guarantor. If the person defaults on their loan, the guarantor’s property can be at risk. While acting as guarantor might be a way of financially supporting a family member without directly giving them money, there are significant risks and consequences if things go wrong. Find out more about being a guarantor.

Guardian and guardianship

A guardian is appointed (through a guardianship order by a tribunal) to make personal decisions on behalf of another person, when they are unable to do it themselves or with support. This may include an adult with a disability or an older person with cognitive impairment who had not appointed an attorney or medical decision-maker and no longer has the capacity to do so. For information relating to your state or territory visit Guardianships in Australia.


Identity theft

A type of fraud where someone’s personal details are accessed illegally and used by a thief to impersonate them. A thief can use someone else’s personal information to access bank accounts, take out loans or set up social media accounts. A thief can also undertake criminal activity under the victim’s name, leaving them with a big debt or reputational damage. See Safeguarding against scams, frauds and identity thefts.

Intergenerational household

Sometimes family members or friends of different generations come together to live in one ‘intergenerational’ household. If everyone involved is happy, this arrangement can benefit everyone with increased social opportunities and stronger relationships between generations.

Intergenerational trauma

Trauma and harm experienced by a person can passed through family, impacting those who did not directly experience or witness the harm. A person’s response to harm and trauma can affect their parenting practices, behaviour, use of violence and substances, and mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Intestacy or dying intestate

When a person dies without a will, it is referred to as ‘dying intestate’ or ‘intestacy’. Legal rules will determine who will be appointed administrator, and how the person’s estate will be distributed.


People who are isolated and are living without their desired level of social contact may feel lonely and anxious. Together, loneliness and isolation can have a negative effect on their health and wellbeing and may put them at higher risk of abuse and being taken advantage of. People can be isolated because of their geographical location (such as living alone or in a small town with limited transport options), communication or mobility difficulties, or their social circumstance (having few friends or family). Click here to read more about isolation.



This inclusive acronym is used to describe people and communities who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and/or other sexuality and gender diverse identities.


A loan simply means providing money to someone with the expectation that it will be paid back in full. Even when the loan is provided to a trusted family member, it’s advisable to always have written documentation detailing the plans for repayment.



This is a blanket term describing any situation where a person’s nutritional intake does not align with their needs. For older people, malnutrition can include weight loss; an increased incidence of illness, falls or pressure injuries; slower than expected recovery from illnesses or wounds; reduced physical and cognitive capacity. Malnutrition can be a sign of elder abuse by neglect. Find out more here.


A malicious computer program that is installed on a person’s computer without them knowing. It can then be used by the installer to access bank and personal details. Malware is often installed when you click on a link in an email or text message that looks legitimate.


Manager (ACT) or Financial Manager (NSW) is a term used for someone who is appointed to make decisions about the finances and property of a person whose decision-making ability is impaired.


This refers to a supported meeting or process where people in dispute can listen to and be heard by each other, discuss what is important to each person, and reach an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone. The mediator is an independent professional who helps them but does not make a decision for them or tell them what to agree to.

Medical care directive

See Advance Care Directive

Medical treatment decision maker

A person appointed to make medical treatment decisions on another’s behalf. This does not mean they can make financial, legal or other personal decisions.

Muscle reserve

An important part of maintaining good health is having plenty of healthy muscle or muscle reserve. This assists your body in combatting illnesses, keeping all organs functioning, supporting the repair ow wounds, and keeping diabetes in control. See Eating well in your 60s, 70s and beyond.


National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

This study involved a telephone survey of 7000 people aged 65 and over and 3,400 people aged 18 to 64. By asking people about their experience and knowledge of elder abuse, the researchers were able to estimate the likely prevalence of elder abuse in Australia. The study estimated that almost one in six older Australians may have experienced abuse in the last 12 months. Find out more about the study


The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a way of providing funding to people with a disability to support their independence and care needs.


The failure to meet an older person’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, warmth or essential medical care constitutes neglect, which is a form of elder abuse. Find out more about neglect.

Next of kin

A person’s closest living relative.


Older person

In Australia an ‘older person’ is someone aged 65 and over. Aged care and community services are also available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over, in recognition of the effects of colonisation and systemic discrimination on health outcomes and mortality of First Nations people.

Omega 3s

A healthy type of fats that help optimise fuel supply to brain cells and may also help reduce the impact of damaging substances like beta amyloid, the protein associated with dementia risk.

Oral health

The overall condition of your mouth, teeth and all associated facial structures. Good oral health contributes to good overall health.


Refers to the mouth and pharynx. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is the inability to swallow food or drink.


Parent visa

This visa category allows older parents to make a permanent move to Australia to reunite with their Australian-based family. The current 30-year waiting list means that most people apply instead for a Contributory Parent visa. Find out more about these visas.

Patriarchal values

A patriarchal society is one where men have more power and privilege than other genders, and the structural systems support and maintain this. A person who holds patriarchal values may feel that men are superior to women, that a man is the head of the family, and that men have rights such as controlling finances and decision-making.


Also called gum disease, this is a common infection caused by by bacteria in plaque on our teeth.


This word refers to the person responsible for the abusive behaviours. Elder abuse is mostly committed by family members, with adult children being the most common perpetrators. Friends, neighbours, acquaintances and caregivers (formal and informal) can also be perpetrators of abuse. Find out more about who commits elder abuse.


When somebody contacts you via email, text message or phone and pretends to be from a company you trust, such as your bank, the government or the tax office. They will often ask you to confirm your personal details, passwords or credit card details – and in doing so will steal these details. If you are contacted in this way, do not click on the link. Use the company’s publicly listed phone number to call them if you think it might be legitimate.

Physical abuse

A type of elder abuse, ‘physical abuse’ means an act that causes physical pain, injury or a combination of both. Find out more about physical abuse.

Powers of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that enables a person to make sure their financial decisions (and, in some states and territories, personal/lifestyle decisions) will be looked after if they become unable to do it themselves.

An enduring power of attorney ‘endures’ past the point where the person no longer has decision-making capacity, potentially through till the end of their life. A person can make an enduring power of attorney (EPOA) whenever they like and revoke it whenever they like, as long as they have capacity. Find out more about enduring powers of attorney.

Primary prevention

This term refers to the activities and efforts made to address the root, or ‘primary’, causes of social or public health problems. Primary prevention activities to address elder abuse include discouraging ageist behaviour and encouraging inclusive and respectful attitudes to older people so they do not become isolated or marginalised.

Private guardian

A family member or friend appointed as guardian when a person no longer has decision-making capacity.

Protected person or principal

The person that a guardianship, administration or financial manager application is made on the behalf of is often called the protected person or the principal.


Protein is an important part of a healthy diet, particularly for older people. Protein helps build muscle reserve, grow and repair cells and keep bones healthy. As we age we need to increase the amount of protein in our diet. Protein comes com meat and fish, eggs, dairy products, seeds, nuts and legumes. See Ageism in health advice.

Psychological abuse

Also commonly known as ‘emotional abuse’, this includes any act that causes emotional pain, anguish or distress or is demeaning to an individual. Find out more about psychological abuse.

Public guardian

When a suitable family or friend is not available to be appointed as a guardian, the tribunal will appoint an independent person to take on this role for a person who no longer has decision-making capacity.

Public or State Trustee

A trust is a legal structure that allows a person or company to manage property for someone else. The public trustee takes on this role in each state or territory where it provides services such as will writing, powers of attorney, executor services, trustee services and financial administration. The state trustee can be appointed as an independent financial administrator when a person who no longer has decision-making capacity does not have a suitable friend or family member to take on this role.


Remote access

Access to a compute from a remote location. Scammers will often try and convince you that they need to access your computer to assist you. A legitimate company will not do this – never allow anyone to access your computer remotely.

Remote witnessing

Remote witnessing is when people sign important documents electronically rather than meeting in person and signing in each other’s physical presence.

Residential aged care

Also known as an aged care home, nursing home or residential aged care facility, this refers to a group living facility where staff provide help with personal and nursing care. The organisation or company who owns the home is often referred to as a service provider. These services are subsidised by government funding. To find out more information, visit the My Aged Care website.

Restrictive practices

This can include chemical (medication), physical, environmental or mechanical restraint or seclusion to restrict a person’s rights and freedom. Legislation requires that in aged care settings restrictive practices should only be used as a last resort and in the least restrictive form to prevent harm.

Risk factors

These are common factors that research has shown can increase the risk of elder abuse. For older people they can include things like isolation, low financial literacy or income, poor physical and mental health, and cognitive impairment. Risk factors for being a perpetrator of elder abuse can include financial pressures, substance abuse problems and cognitive impairment. Find out more about elder abuse risk factors.



‘Safeguarding’ describes the range of measures designed to protect the rights of older people and keep vulnerable people safe from harm. In Australia, each state and territory has different safeguarding legislation and regulatory bodies to respond to (and, in some cases, investigate) reports of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults, particularly those with impaired capacity.


When somebody gains your confidence in order to steal your money or personal information. Scammers can be very sophisticated and convincing. They approach people using text messages, phone calls and emails and will sometimes already have a potential victim’s personal details that make their scam more convincing. See Safeguarding against scams, frauds and identity thefts.

Sexual abuse

Any behaviour of a sexual nature done to an older person without their consent is a form of elder abuse. This includes physical interactions and non-contact acts of a sexual nature. Find out more about sexual abuse of elders.

Statement of wishes

A document that can go with a person’s will to record their personal wishes. It can include information for the executor on who to contact about the person’s death, desired funeral arrangements, and instructions on the distribution of personal belongings not covered on the will. Unlike a will, the executor is not legally bound to follow any instructions in a statement of wishes. See Wills and how they work.

Substitute decision-making

The practice of someone making decisions for another person who cannot make their own decisions. Often, the person is not involved in making the decision or consulted about their preferences.

Successive attorney

An attorney is someone who is appointed to make decisions on your behalf. A successive attorney is someone who takes on this role if one of your other attorneys is not available due to capacity issues of their own, death or because they wish to resign from the role.

Supportive decision-making or Supportive power of attorney

Rather than nominating a person to make decisions on another person’s behalf, a supportive decision-maker supports a person to make their own decisions. People with disability, such as a cognitive disability, may appoint a supportive decision-maker to help them find the information they need to make decisions, and communicate those decisions. For more information see Supported decision-making.


Testamentary wishes

A person’s instructions and wishes for the settlement of their estate when they die. A will is the document that records a person’s testamentary wishes.


When you make a will, you are known as the ‘testator’.


A trust is a relationship between a person creating the trust, a person holding or managing the assets (the trustee), and a person who will benefit from the assets (the beneficiary).


Ultra-processed foods

This term refers to commercially produced food that is made from ingredients not used in home cooking. These chemically modified substances are often extracted from foods as starches, fats and sugars and then chemically modified to make them more appealing. Examples can include packaged snacks, ready-made meals, soft drinks and ice creams. Packaged food that includes a long list of ingredients you would not have in your kitchen at home are ultra-processed. Increasing evidence suggests a diet high in ultra-processed foods is damaging to your health.

Undue Influence

This term describes the situation when a person places pressure or uses power over another person to gain something such as a property or money. A perpetrator may use undue influence to pressure an older person into changing their will, signing over property or gifting money against the older person’s wishes.


Verification code

Sometimes called a security code or ‘two-step verification’, this is a unique code sent to your nominated mobile phone to ensure that large or unusual banking and shopping transactions are verified by you. You will be asked to enter your verification code online to confirm your transaction. A bank or legitimate company will never ask for you to give them your verification code over the phone.



A will is a legal document that states what happens with a person’s assets (including finances, property and personal belongings) when they die. Having a legally valid will helps to avoid estate disputes and legal proceedings after a person has passed away. See Wills and how they work.



Loss of, or change in, saliva, is called xerostomia or dry mouth.