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Elder Abuse


Quick Facts

For quick facts on family violence against seniors, please visit the Statistics Canada website.

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Family Violence

Elder Abuse refers to the violence, mistreatment or neglect that older adults living in either private residences or institutions may experience at the hands of their spouses, children, other family members, caregivers, service providers or other individuals in situations of power or trust. Elder Abuse also includes older adults abused by non-family members who are not in a position of power or trust and self-neglect. 1

RCMP's commitment

The RCMP is committed to the well-being and safety of seniors across Canada. As part of its collaborative and coordinated response, the RCMP works with other government agencies, private sector partners and local communities to develop prevention and awareness information, tools and resources for both the public and police to better recognize and respond to elder abuse.

Factors that play a role in Elder Abuse

Factors include:

  • gender,
  • age,
  • race,
  • level of frustration,
  • anger or despair,
  • past history,
  • living arrangements,
  • level of financial or emotional dependence on others (relationships of intimacy, dependence, power, trust or authority),
  • psychological and mental factors,
  • environmental factors and
  • systemic factors.

Impact of Elder Abuse

The stress associated with abuse and neglect can lead to long-term physical and psychological problems including:

  • heart attack,
  • stroke,
  • anxiety,
  • angina,
  • depression,
  • high blood pressure,
  • panic attacks,
  • poverty,
  • isolation,
  • over and under-medicating and in some cases,
  • death.

Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse can manifest itself in a number of behaviors that are noticeable to those who most frequently interact with the elderly:

  • family,
  • friends,
  • neighbors,
  • physicians,
  • retailers,
  • bankers,
  • social workers, and
  • police.

Indicators include:

  • a sudden change in behavior or appearance,
  • a sudden onset of physical injuries, and
  • a change in financial resources.

The strongest indicator that an elderly person is being abused is that he or she will tell someone.

Forms of Elder Abuse

Neglect (Self or by others): Unkempt appearance, broken glasses, lack of appropriate clothing, lack of eyewear, hearing aid, dentures and other necessities, malnutrition, dehydration, poor personal hygiene, untreated sores, hazardous or unsafe living condition or arrangements (dirt, fleas, lice, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell). An elderly person will report being neglected / mistreated.

Physical Abuse: Untreated or unexplainable injuries in various stages of healing, limb and skull fractures, bruises, sores, cuts, punctures, sprains, internal injuries/bleeding, dislocations, black eyes, welts and bondage marks (signs of being restrained).

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: Venereal disease, genital infections, torn, stained, or bloody underclothing, vaginal or anal bleeding, bruising around the breasts or genital area. An elderly person will generally report having been sexually assaulted or raped.

Psychological and/or Emotional Abuse: Changes in behavior (emotional upset/agitation resulting in sucking, biting, rocking), withdrawn, non-responsive, usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking).

Economic / Financial Abuse: Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice ( unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elderly person), coercing an elderly person into signing a document (i.e. contracts, wills), negotiating an elderly person's cheques without authorization, stealing or misusing an elderly person's money or possessions, forging an elderly person's signature, misuse of power of attorney.

Institutional Abuse: In some cases, a facility's policies may be inappropriate for meeting an elderly person's needs. Some institutions may operate to meet a personal or financial goal that conflicts with meeting residents' health and environmental needs.

  • Overcrowded, substandard and/or unsanitary living environments;
  • Inadequate care and nutrition;
  • Aggressive / inappropriate staffclient relations;
  • Use of chemical and physical restraints to exert control over the elderly.

Violation of Rights : Restricted liberty, rights to privacy, access to information, available community supports.

Spiritual Abuse : Restricted or loss of spiritual practices, customs, traditions.

See also:

Department of Justice Canada , Abuse of Older Adults: Dept. of Justice Canada Overview Paper, 2009, p.1