Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is defined as an act or omission that causes harm to a senior or jeopardizes his or her health or welfare. Elder abuse can take place in the home, in a residential setting, or in the community. The perpetrator can be a stranger, caregiver, or family member, but studies show that abuse usually occurs in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Abuse can happen to any older adult, whether or not they are mentally incompetent.

Types of Elder Abuse

Physical, Psychological, or Sexual Abuse

Physical abuse refers to any act of violence that causes injury or physical discomfort, and may include rough handling, pushing, or even the unwarranted use of medications.

Psychological abuse includes any act which may diminish the dignity and self-worth of an older adult. Abusive treatment might include things such as verbal assault, confinement, isolation or humiliation.

Sexual abuse refers to any sexual behaviour directed towards an older person without that person’s consent or knowledge.


Deliberately depriving an older adult with the basic necessities of life or failing to provide adequate care because of lack of knowledge both constitute neglect. For example, denying the elderly individual food or water, or not allowing visits from family or friends.

Financial Abuse

This is considered the most common type of abuse. It refers to the misuse of an elderly adult’s funds and assets without that person’s knowledge and/or informed consent.

Red Flags for Financial Abuse

• Has the elderly person experienced a sudden decrease in funds to pay for living expenses?

• Have there been large gifts or transfer of assets?

• Has the elder person been coerced into signing legal documents they say they do not understand?

• Has the Power of Attorney been altered?

Signs of Elder Abuse: What Should You Do?

Under the Substitute Decisions Act (SDA), an attorney must keep accounts of all transactions. If it is believed the attorney is not acting in the best interest of the elder person, an application may be made to the court, they may require the appointed attorney to go through a passing of accounts. If the substitute decision maker has been unjustly enriched at the expense of the elderly adult then the court may order restitution.

The SDA also gives the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) the power to investigate into allegations of abuse or neglect. The PGT may refer the victim to the appropriate services or may apply to the court for temporary guardianship.

If you are a victim of elder abuse or suspect that someone else is suffering from elder abuse, you should seek advice.


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