Elder abuse is defined as any action or lack of action that harms an older person. In Canada, it is estimated that between 4% and 10% of people over 65 live in situations of abuse and neglect; however, that number has likely increased over the past year and a half. Risk factors for elder abuse include social isolation, cognitive impairment, physical frailty, and dependence on others for care. Many of these risk factors were compounded by the COVID-19 restrictions.
Abuse can take many forms, including intimidation, negligence, emotional blackmail, theft, push and shove, threats, and aggression. It can be challenging to spot abuse as victims may be reluctant to disclose that they are being abused out of fear that they may worsen the situation or face backlash. As a result, they may try to hide signs of it from others. Knowing the signs of elder abuse is critical to identifying it and acting. Key signs of elder abuse may include but are not limited to the recent deterioration of health status, mental illness, alcohol or drug use, dehydration or malnutrition, poor hygiene, and bruises to the face, arms, or torso.
If you notice any of the signs associated with elder abuse, below are suggested next steps you may want to consider taking:
- If you think someone you know is being abused, is at risk of serious harm, and the situation is an emergency, call 911.
- If you suspect someone you know is being abused, but they are not at any immediate risk, consider speaking with them to get more information. If your discussion verifies your concerns, you can inform them of their rights. If they are not ready to deal with the abuse, offer your support until they are ready to act.
- If the older person is confused and doesn't seem to understand their situation, you may have to contact the local Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee or the local police. They will investigate further.
Read more about elder abuse risk factors, signs, and interventions through our resources below and be sure to share with your friends and family as well.