Elder Abuse

Topic Overview

elderly man

  • Elder Abuse is any action or inaction by self or others that jeopardizes the health or well being of the individual.
  • Elder Abuse cases are likely to increase as the percentage of older adults in the population increases (baby boomer retirees between 2011-2036
  • Elder Abuse is a part of family violence that is often overlooked.

Prevalence of Abuse

  • In a 2008 Canadian survey, 5% of seniors surveyed reported they had experienced abuse (Human Resources and Social Development Canada).
  • 18% of Albertans knew an elder who had experienced abuse (Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network)
  • Who is abused?
    • It can be ANY senior
    • Most are mentally competent but have some measure of cognitive impairment
    • Both men and women
    • Rich and poor alike
    • Happens within all cultures
  • Who are the Abusers?Young man
    • Someone who:
      • the seniors knows, loves, trusts
      • is able to influence elder
      • is often dealing with their own issues – financial, addiction, mental health, poor interpersonal skills
      • typically a family member, adult child

  • Factors making a senior more vulnerable to abuse:
    • Senior has por physical health
    • mental health concerns (senior and abuser)
    • cognitive decline
    • low income of the abuser
    • housing issues (abuser cannot maintain housing or senior does not want to live in a supportive care facility)
    • caregiver stress (experienced by abuser or senior)
    • loneliness (abuser or senior)
    • lack of natural or professional supports (abuser or senior)
    • poor interpersonal skills (abuser or senior)

The following statistics were collected in 2012, in the Edmonton area, by the Elder Abuse Intervention Team.

Types of Elder Abuse

Financial (61%)grandmother and granddaughter

  • Misuse of the elder’s funds or property through fraud or trickery, manipulation, repetitious begging, stealing, misuse of debit/credit cards and joint accounts.

Emotional/Psychological (54%)

  • Takes the form of verbal aggression, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, name calling, blaming, belittling, manipulation, threatening, controlling behavior, withholding love.

Physical (20%)

  • Physical force causing discomfort or injury– slapping, shaking, punching, pushing, failure to provide adequate health care, and causing property damage, throwing objects causing injury, assault with a weapon.

Sexual (1%)

  • Unwanted forms of sexual activity or behaviors – fondling, verbal/suggestive behaviors, lack of personal privacy, unnecessary help with dressing/hygiene, sexual intercourse with an elder unable to give consent, beign forced to perform degrading acts.

Neglect (13%)

  • Intentional or unintentional failure to provide for the elder’s needs. Denial of social contact, abandonment
  • Failure to provide:
    • safe/warm place to live
    • personal hygiene
    • proper food/clean clothing
    • services to meet senior’s necessities of life
    • aids to daily living – hearing aids, mobility aids, bath aids
    • medical attention to injuries, infections, bed sores or routine appointments

Medication (2%)

  • Misuse of medications or prescriptions
  • Withholding/non-compliance with refills
  • Overmedicating/sedation
What You Should Know

womanFactors in Abuse…

  • History of spousal abuse - a continuation of domestic violence
  • Family dynamics - if family interactions were unhealthy in early life or if an abused child becomes a primary caregiver
  • Isolation - elder becomes isolated due to physical and/or mental illness or loss of friends and/or family – makes it easier for abuser to exploit elder
  • Inability to cope - due to the stress of long-term caregiving out of a sense of duty or pressure
  • Senior exhibits poor interpersonal skills (inability to say “no”)

Barriers to Disclosure:

  • Fear, shame, guilt
  • Hopelessness/loneliness, feelings of helplessness
  • Love of abuser
  • Medication disability/mental impairment
  • Language or cultural difference
  • Inappropriate medication
  • Unaware of social services, law enforcement, and community support services available
  • Acceptance of abuse as normal

What Are Clues?

Any of the following might be a clue that abuse is happening.

In the case of emotional abuse:

  • Elder may seem frightened, withdrawn, depressed or apathetic, nervous, scared, low self-esteem, crying, anxiety
  • Often reports or witnesses yelling, name calling, inability to make contact with the senior, repetitious statements/theats

elderly man

In the case of physical abuse:

  • Unusual marks/injuries that do not correlate with the story
  • Indication of weapon used, marks in unusual places (on the trunk of body including head, back, stomach, between toes, buttocks)
  • Senior may display fear, shame, pain, confusion (head injury), mood changes including depression and anxiety

In the case of sexual abuse:

  • Bruising/pain around genitalia
  • Fear of being touches
  • Crying of other changes in mood including depression or anxiety
  • Shame, fear

In the case of financial abuse:

  • Unexplained sale of property
  • Items missing from the home (and money)
  • Someone else cashing pension cheques
  • Bank account over-drawn
  • Unexplained transactions of seniors account
  • Excessive money giving, large withdrawls
  • Sudden changes to Wills, Land Titles, Assets, Power of Attorney documents
  • Elder maybe stressed, confused, have anxiety

In the case of neglect:

  • Decreased social contact
  • Abandonment
  • Seems groggy or alterned consciousness
  • Seems thin or appears to have lost a lot of weight
  • Wearing dirty clothes or inappropriate closes for the season
  • Not having aids to daily living (dentures, mobility aids, glasses, etc)
  • Obvious medical issue not being attended to

What can you do?

reporting abuseWho might the elder report abuse to…

  • Family members
  • Friend or neighbour
  • Healthcare worker
  • Service provider (in-home or facility)
  • Program staff
  • Faith leader
  • Social worker
  • Police
  • Any supportive person that is trusted
  • Elder Abuse experts

Express concern for senior’s safety and offer to link to help when…

  • An elder discloses information or a suspicious statement is made
  • Injuries or events are reported or witnessed that don’t match explanations

Support the senior in getting help with… (Note: Linking to help may break the cycle of abuse and the senior can have a say in what they want done about the abuse).

  • Safety plan
  • Finding resources/referrals

Alert someone who can help with elder abuse concerns such as

  • Police
  • Elder Abuse Resource and Supports (EARS) – EARS links high risk cases to the Elder Abuse Intervention Team (EAIT)
  • Facility management

NOTE: If the matter is an emergency call 911 and ask for immediate police or medical assistance.


Elder Abuse Services for Edmonton

Edmonton City Police (non-emergency number) 780-423-4567

Elder Abuse Edmonton Police Service Constable 780-496-871 (criminal concerns)

Elder Abuse Resource and Supports 780-477-2929 extension 1
(also receives high risk referrals for the Elder
Abuse Intervention Team (EAIT)

Police and Crisis Team (mental health) 780-482-0222
(Police and RN/RPN or Social Worker)

Seniors Abuse Helpline (24 hr support line) 780-454-8888

Office of the Public Guardian 780-422-1868

Office of the Public Trustee 780-427-2744

Protection of Persons in Care Act (PPICA) 1-888-357-9339

SAFE Senior Safe House 780-702-1520 extension #3

Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network
(Supports outside of Edmonton)

Other Related Resources

Directory of Seniors Services Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton
(any community service related to seniors)\

Community Services (City of Edmonton) 780-497-4777 (assistance line)


“Elder Abuse – What is it? What can be done about it?” – by Community Action committee on Elder Abuse

Oak-Net – Older Adult NKowledge Network (information about Canadian Law)

Last modified: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 9:17 AM