Elder abuse is often defined as any act or lack of action, within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust that harms a senior and causes them distress, risks their health or welfare by taking advantage of their vulnerability based on their age. Elder abuse is violence, mistreatment or neglect towards older adults.
Elder abuse often occurs when there is an imbalance of control. The individual who chooses to be abusive either limits or takes control over the rights and freedoms of the senior. The abuse/violence is used to intimidate, humiliate, coerce, frighten or simply to make the senior feel powerless. The abuse often comes from individuals in situations of power or trust (spouse, children, other family members, caregivers, service providers). The abuse can occur in either in the home, other residential settings or in the community. Elder abuse can take many forms, including neglect, physical, psychological or financial abuse, violation of rights, and abandonment. Factors that play a role in elder abuse include gender, race, level of stress, living arrangements, level of dependence on others, and various psychological factors.
Elder abuse is never acceptable.
Some examples of elder abuse may include:
- Demands/pressure to sign legal documents that they do not fully understand
- Misusing a senior’s property and/or funds, Power of Attorney
- Transfer or withdrawal of funds without prior permission
- The seniors home is unexpectedly sold
- Not considering the individuals wishes. Removal of decision-making powers
- Threats of institutionalization – “Do what I say or I’ll put you in a home”
- Treating a senior like a child.
- Broken eyeglasses
- Coerced nudity and sexually explicit photographing.
- Improper use of medication – over/under medicating
- Not providing food or liquids, proper clothing or hygiene
Warning signs of a senior being abused can include:
- changes in mood (depression, fear, anxiety or detachment)
- changes in behaviour (social withdrawal)
- physical harm (unexplained injuries)
- neglect (lack of hygiene, food, clothing)
- failure to meet financial obligations or unusual bank withdrawals
- changes in living arrangements ( people moving in or being forced out)
- Fearfulness – Nervous around caregiver or other persons
- There are currently 2 million seniors aged 65 and over, or 14.6 per cent of the population who reside in Ontario. Based on studies that indicate two to ten percent of seniors are abused, there are between 40,000 and 200,000 seniors living in Ontario who have experienced or are experiencing elder abuse
- Elder abuse can lead to long-term physical and psychological problems, including heart attack, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and isolation
- In 2015, more than 9,900 seniors (65 years and older) were victims of police-reported violent crime in Canada. Of these victims, one-third (33%) were victimized by a grown child, spouse, sibling or extended family member (a rate of 60 per 100,000 population)
- According to police records from more recent years, between 2005 and 2015, there were a total of 184 senior victims of family-related homicide. Nearly half (47%) of these victims were killed by a grown child and one-third (34%) were killed by a spouse
If an older adult tells you that they’re being abused:
- be patient – listen carefully and don’t jump to conclusions
- believe them– do not question what they are telling you. You may be the very first person who has ever been entrusted with this information. It may be hard to understand what is going on, especially if the individual choosing to be abusive is a nice person to you or someone you know
- do not judge them– do not express pity or tell them what to do. Respect their decisions even when you don`t agree. Tell them you care about them and offer them a level of support that you feel comfortable providing and know that you can provide on an ongoing basis. Do not promise them things you know you cannot do or are not comfortable doing
- understand that making efforts to change an abusive relationship is extremely difficult– a person who is being abused can be very afraid and not certain what to do. It can take a very long time for people to decide to make a change in their lives, to reach out for help or to even talk about their situation
- do not deny what is going on– if you choose to deny what is going on or not to listen to a person, this will serve to isolate the person who is experiencing abuse even further
- do not confront the perpetrator yourself– this could put you and/or the person who is experiencing abuse in trouble
- educate yourself on resources available – learn about safety planning and call your local community information centre, community care access centre, community support agency; talk to your own doctor or lawyer; or search on the Internet for resources and information, such as: www.ontario.ca/page/information-about-elder-abuse.
- encourage them to seek help– offer to help them find the right place to turn to and local resources, if this is something you are prepared and able to do
- Nova Vita Domestic Violence Prevention Services 24/7 crisis line 519-752-4357
- Senior Resource Centre 519-309-0032
- Beckett Adult Leisure Centre 519-756-3261 ext. 5569
- County of Brant 519-442-1818
- John Noble Home 519-756-2920
- Nurse Next Door Home Care Services 519-900-6025
- Home Instead Senior Care 519-752-4663
- The Seniors Safety Line is a 24/7, confidential and free resource that provides information, referrals and support in over 150 languages for seniors experiencing abuse. Call 1-866-299-1011 for support.