The acquisition of property through deceptive relationships with elderly people is becoming a more widespread problem.
A couple who wish to remain anonymous said their family experience of elder abuse revealed the cracks in the law.
The couple's elderly family member entered into a relationship of companionship with a younger person.
The relationship lasted three years and began with the elderly person believing it was a genuine trusting relationship.
The younger person led the couple and other family members to believe they would care for the elderly person.
A year into the relationship the elderly family member had a stroke.
It was during this time the family became aware the elderly person had transferred their house ownership to the younger person.
The clear expectation was that the elderly person would continue to live there for life, receiving adequate care rather than having to live in a care-giving institution.
"It's one of those things where you know it is wrong and you know society in general would not accept it but that it is not contrary to any law even if you could easily and conclusively prove the things that had happened," the couple said.
After three years in the relationship, the elderly person reported to their social worker ongoing abuse and negligence.
By this stage, their partner at the time had acquired the house and had direct access to the bank accounts, despite not having an enduring power of attorney.
The couple were the elderly person's enduring power of attorney in personal welfare.
On one occasion the housekeeper the couple had hired for further support found the elderly person in their bed with diarrhoea, after a weekend alone. The younger person who went away for the weekend had called the housekeeper on Friday and said they were not needed that weekend.
The couple said the family member did not disclose the situation earlier due to embarrassment and fear of retribution from their partner.
The couple described the elderly and young person's relationship as an accumulation of abusive behaviour — both psychological and financial.
"The legal experts said this person was a fraudster because of all the things that added up over time, but you can't use that process formally or legally."
Unlike other forms of abuse, processes of reporting differ in elder abuse.
"Older people are almost more vulnerable because of this. They can be kicked out of their own home."
At one stage after the young person got the house, they had it completely stripped out for renovation. But the whole the time, our family member was still living in it," the couple said.
"When I asked the elderly family member later why they didn't move out or stay with someone else, they said they were afraid that if they left they wouldn't be let back in."
The couple said during this time the family member experienced further negligent behaviour.
However, when their social worker became aware of the abuse, a long process of legal action began.
During this time, the elderly person died and their final request to the couple was "just get my house back".
After spending well into six figures in legal fees across multiple years, the couple were unable to get the house back primarily because no law was apparently broken by the younger person.
The couple said their experience had given them insight into the barriers in the legal, financial and health processes surrounding elder abuse support.
The couple are concerned because they can see nothing happening to stop this type of abuse continuing. This younger person is free to start again.