Facts on Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is any action or inaction by self or others that jeopardizes the health or well-being of any older adult. Elder abuse can take several forms including financial, emotional, physical, sexual, neglect and medication. Often more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. The two most frequently identified and reported types of elder abuse in Canada are financial and emotional.

Who are the victims?

Any senior can become a victim of elder abuse regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, income or education.

Although there is limited data about elder abuse in Canada and throughout the world, it is estimated that over 8% of older adults in Canada are likely to experience abuse. It is believed that many cases of elder abuse go unreported.

Shame or guilt may stop a senior from revealing their abuse. Sometimes victims simply do not have the capacity to report it. Whether a victim is unable or unwilling, some of the barriers to revealing elder abuse include: fear; love for the abuser; lack of understanding or impairment; unaware of resource options; or acceptance of abuse or neglect as normal behaviour.

Who are the abusers?

Elder abuse is often committed by someone known to the victim, such as a family member, friend, or caregiver who is in a position of power, trust or authority. Approximately 25% of crimes against older adults are committed by family members, usually a spouse or adult child.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

Like other types of family violence, the dynamics of elder abuse are complex. Elder abuse is often impacted by the mental and physical conditions of both the abuser and the victim, with these factors interacting in ways uniquely dependent on the individuals involved and the situation.

isk factors for abuse include: history of spousal abuse; family dynamics; isolation; troubled relatives, friends or neighbours; inability to cope with long-term caregiving; institutional conditions; ageism and lack of knowledge about the aging process; society's acceptance of violence; and health and mobility issues.

Common signs of elder abuse include: confusion; depression or anxiety; unexplained injuries; changes in hygiene; seeming fearful around certain people; and fear or worry when talking about money.

What should I do if I think I am being abused?

If you are in immediate danger leave the situation. Go to a safe place immediately, such as a neighbour, friend or relative. Go into a business or ask to be taken to a shelter. If you are unable to leave your home, call 911 immediately.

Confide in someone you trust. Talk to someone you trust about what is happening, such as friend or family member; public health nurse; social worker; home care worker; someone at your place of worship; or a doctor.

Keep a record. Write down what is happening to you and keep a daily record. This will help you to document the abuse and help others assist you if you need it.

Take legal action. All forms of abuse are immoral. Some forms are illegal. You may want to think about a court protection order that would stop the abusive person from having contact with you.

DON'T BLAME YOURSELF. Know that it is not your fault and help is available. Please ask for help because you do not deserve to be abused. Many groups in your community want to help you to protect your rights, safety and dignity.