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Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is most often defined as: single or repeated acts, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person (World Health Organization, 2002).

Elder Abuse Can Be:


  • Slapping, pinching or punching
  • Other rough handling
  • Sexual assault
  • Forced confinement


  • Inadequate hygiene
  • Adminstration of medicine (too much or not enough)
  • Failure to ensure appropriate medical care
  • Emaciation, malnourishment, dehydration


  • Dishonest use of money or assets
  • Overcharging for services
  • Misuse of Power of Attorney


  • Verbal assaults
  • Humiliation
  • Intimidation
  • Social isolation
  • Being treated as a child

Self-Neglect: A Form of Abuse or Neglect?

Self-neglect refers to a person's inability to provide care and support to himself or herself, and can happen as a result of an individual's choice of lifestyle. Or, the person may be depressed, in poor health, have cognitive (memory or decision-making) problems, or be physically unable to care for themself. Conceptually, self-neglect is different than someone else harming the older adult (Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2006).

Who Is Abused?

Any senior can experience abuse, regardless of their culture, gender, race, financial status, or mental and/or physical conditions. Abused seniors are often socially isolated, with few friends or family in whom to confide.

At Special Risk:

Seniors with physical disabilities are at increased risk for physical, sexual, financial or other forms of abuse and/or neglect. Not only are they more vulnerable; the abuse is likely to be chronic and severe.

Who Are the Abusers?

Unfortunately, in many cases, abusers are family members. They can also be friends, neighbours, care providers or anyone in a position of authority or power over the older adult.

Elder abuse can also occur in hospitals, long-term care facilities or retirement homes.

What Leads to Elder Abuse?

There is no single cause of abuse. As we learn more, theories continue to be developed.

Often, however, one or more of the following factors are involved:

  • History of abuse in the family
  • Financial, housing or chronic health problems
  • Caregiver having difficulty coping with the responsibilities and has limited support or respite
  • Alcohol or drug dependency
  • Mental health problems
  • Social or personal attitudes toward the elderly

Possible Signs of Elder Abuse:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Fear, uneasiness
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal or passivity
  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor nutrition
  • Missing personal belongings
  • Lack of food, clothing or other necessities
  • Unusual bank withdrawals
  • Unusual legal activity related to wills or other documents

While it is not a good idea to jump to conclusions, the signs and symptoms listed above should not be ignored.

For more information, support, and confidential advise, contact:

The Halton Regional Police Service
9-1-1 (Emergencies Only)


Constable Nadine Clarke
905-825-4747 ext. 5345

Elder Abuse Prevention Committee of Halton

Halton Seniors Helpline