Identify Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse? It’s more common than most of us think.
It often goes unidentified.

Learn how to identify Elder Abuse in your community.

The Iceberg Theory Helps Us Identify Elder Abuse


“It is estimated that between four and 10 percent of seniors will experience some form of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, and/or experience neglect; however, it is believed that for many reasons, abuse is significantly under reported.” Together to Reduce Elder Abuse

There are a number of reasons we find it hard to identify elder abuse. One key reason is that elder abuse often happens between an elder and a person(s) in a position of trust. Like families and caregivers.

We don’t like to think that we, our families, our trusted caregivers and members of our communities are responsible for elder abuse or neglect. The hidden part of the elder abuse iceberg, though, is made up of abuse and neglect issues that have their roots in our homes and communities.

The part of the elder abuse iceberg that we can see above the surface is most often financial in nature.

Financial Abuse is the Most Reported Type of Elder Abuse

Financial abuse is often the easiest to identify so financial elder abuse is the type of abuse that is most commonly reported. Financial abuse is reported most frequently by employees of financial institutions because they are trained to spot financial abuse. Because they are not part of the affected family, their loyalty and legal responsibility is to their client.

When we listen to professionals who work in the area of Elder Abuse, they say that abuse, neglect and self-neglect is often first spotted as financial abuse. It is only on further investigation that they find more complex and sensitive issues within the elder’s family and social circles.

Most Elder Abuse Happens Beneath The Surface

Elder abuse includes abuse, neglect and self-neglect. Elder abuse can be physical, psychological and financial. Because elder abuse often happens within close family and community circles, it is often hidden from the people who can help. And it’s often not even recognized by the abusers and victims.

“Both the abusers and the victims may not recognize the actions as abusive. Elder abuse is a serious issue that undermines the independence, dignity, health, and sense of security of the victim. It is wrong; a violation of the basic human rights of seniors; and in many instances, it may involve a criminal offence.”  Together To Reduce Elder Abuse Together to Reduce Elder Abuse

“Elder abuse can take place in a senior’s home, a care facility and in the community, and most often involves a person in a position of trust or a situation of dependency. Some common examples include intimidation, humiliation, physical assault, sexual assault, frauds, scams, misuse of a power of attorney, over-medicating or withholding needed medication, restricting cultural or spiritual practices, censoring mail, and denying access to visitors.” Together to Reduce Elder Abuse

It’s important that we understand what kinds of behaviours constitute elder abuse and what behaviours abused adults may be showing.

Behaviours to Watch For When Elder Abuse or Neglect is Suspected

From the Government of Canada:

  • fear, anxiety, depression or passiveness in relation to a family member, friend or care provider;
  • unexplained physical injuries;
  • dehydration, poor nutrition or poor hygiene;
  • improper use of medication;
  • confusion about new legal documents, such as a new will or a new mortgage;
  • sudden drop in cash flow or financial holdings; and
  • reluctance to speak about the situation.
If you suspect Elder Abuse or Neglect it’s important that you speak with the adult affected and know that you can find information about how to appropriately report abuse on our Report Elder Abuse page. There are a variety of ways to handle Elder Abuse.

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