Elder Abuse

It Happens. We’re Here.

It’s time to learn about elder abuse.

What Is Elder Abuse?

A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm and distress to an older person. This includes:

Financial, Emotional/Psychological, Physical, Sexual and Neglect.

Types Of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take several forms, often with more than one type of abuse occurring at the same time for individuals. National and provincial statistics indicate that the two most identified and reported types of elder abuse are financial and psychological. It is often divided into the five categories: financial, psychological or emotional, physical, sexual, and neglect.

  • Financial Abuse
  • Psychological or Emotional Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect

Financial Abuse

This is “the misuse of an older person’s funds or property through fraud, trickery, theft or force.” It can include:

  • limiting a senior’s access to their finances
  • standard of living not in accordance with income
  • the misuse of money or property
  • frauds/scams targeted at seniors
  • convincing an older person to buy a product or give away money
  • stealing money or possessions
  • misusing bank, credit cards and joint banking accounts
  • forging a signature on pension cheques or legal documents
  • misusing a power of attorney

Possible Indicators: Unpaid bills, lack of food, rent not being paid, theft of property (Missing jewelry or personal possessions), unusual activity in bank accounts, confused about their finances, limiting of access to their own bank accounts, forged signatures on financial documents.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

This may take the form of verbal aggression, humiliation, isolation, intimidation, threats and inappropriate control of activities. In all cases, it diminishes the identity and self-worth of older people. It can also provoke intense fear, anxiety or debilitating stress.

It can include:

  • premature removal of decision making ability
  • withholding affection for manipulative purposes
  • refusing access to grandchildren
  • controlling activities
  • treating them like children
  • diminishing their self-worth
  • intentionally creating fear or worry

Possible Indicators: Fear, anxiety, depression, withdrawal from activities and others, fearful of caregiver, caregiver speaks for older adult, isolation (ie. no phone, no outside contact).

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the use of physical force causing discomfort which may or may not result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Older persons who are subjected to rough handling or mistreatment are the victims of physical abuse.

It can include:

  • slapping
  • shaking
  • pushing
  • kicking
  • punching
  • striking with an object or weapon
  • deliberate exposure to severe weather
  • unnecessary physical or chemical restraint
  • forced confinement
  • failure to provide adequate health care
  • physical pain to an adult

Medication Abuse: Over or under medication, administration of medications not required, or stealing medications.

Possible Indicators: Unexplained bruises, burns, bites, broken bones, dislocations, abrasions, missing hair. Untreated medical issues, history of

Sexual Abuse

All unwanted forms of sexual activity, behaviour, assault or harassment to older persons is elder sexual abuse.

It can include:

  • verbal or suggestive behavior
  • fondling
  • sexual intercourse
  • lack of personal privacy
  • unnecessary help with dressing/hygiene
  • unwanted nude photographs

Possible Indicators: Pain, bleeding or bruising in the genital or chest area, sexually transmitted diseases, recent depression, recent incontinence.


This is the intentional or unintentional failure to provide for the needs of someone. Neglect can be active (intentional) or passive (unintentional) and has the effect of failing to provide older persons with basic necessities or care.

It can include:

  • failure to provide a safe, warm and comfortable place to live
  • failure to provide personal hygiene
  • failure to provide proper food or clean clothing
  • failure to provide aids for daily living, (hearing aids, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, etc.)
  • failure to prevent physical harm
  • failure to provide adequate and prescribed medications.

Active Neglect: Intentional failure of the caregiver to fulfill caregiving duties.

Passive Neglect: Unintentional failure of a caregiver to fulfill caregiving responsibilities due to lack of knowledge, skill, illness, infirmity, or lack of awareness of community supports and resources.

Self-Neglect: Involves cases where older adults, by choice or ignorance, live in ways that disregard their health or safety needs and can in some cases pose a hazard to others. An individual’s inability to provide for his or her own needs.

Possible Indicators: Inappropriate or dirty clothing, poor hygiene, dehydration, unsafe living conditions, lack of social contact, irregular medical appointments, lack of or for condition of dentures, glasses or hearing aid(s) or other aids to daily living that may be required.

Stay Informed To Protect Yourself

Any older adult can become a victim of elder abuse regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, income or education. Although there is limited data about elder abuse in Canada and throughout the world, it is estimated that over 8% of older adults in Canada are likely to experience abuse. It is believed that many cases of elder abuse go unreported.

Staying informed and knowing your rights can help you protect yourself. Abuse happens when one person hurts or mistreats another. Remember:

Seniors are entitled to respect.

Seniors have a right to live free from physical and sexual abuse

Seniors have every right to live in safety and security.

There is no excuse for abuse.

Elder abuse occurs when the abuser uses their position of power in a way that frightens or distresses the older person. This happens because the abuser wants to intimidate (terrorize), isolate (separate the individual from friends or family members), dominate (control, restrain) or extract financial gain.

Older adults are often dependent on the abuser for some assistance such as grocery shopping, driving to appointments, helping with their banking, or general household duties. Dependency tends to increase the risk of becoming victimized.

Older adults can also be victims of frauds and scams that may be occurring within their community including unscrupulous salesmen, internet fraud, telephone scams, etc. If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911, stay with the senior and offer support and reassurance until help arrives.

In many cases it is a spouse, family member, paid caregiver, friend, or landlord. who is committing a crime against an older adult. It occurs in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Mental health and addiction can be factor.

A few facts about abuse

What you can do to help

Barriers To Getting Help

  • Love for the abuser
  • They are a close family member who needs help (ie. addictions or mental health)
  • Hope for change and believe things will get better
  • Fear of losing relationships with family members, especially grandchildren
  • Fear of being institutionalized
  • Fear of losing a caregiver
  • Being unable to report due to frailty or cognitive impairment
  • Sense of hopelessness- the abuse has been going on for many years
  • Shame- it’s often a family member
  • Guilt- Senior thinks it is their fault
  • Fearful of authority figures or systems
  • Unaware of resources, or think that nothing can be done

Reach out and ask for help if you are experiencing abuse.

If you think you are experiencing any form of elder abuse, ask for help from someone you trust. This may include family members, friends, caregiver, health care providers, social services, seniors’ centres, police, legal professionals and/or members of faith communities.

If you are being abused and in need of immediate assistance.

Call the police at 911 for emergency assistance.

If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Stay with the senior and offer support and reassurance until help arrives.

St. Aidan's Society

(780) 743-4370

Waypoints Crisis
Line (24 hrs)

(780) 743-1190 Collect Calls Accepted

RCMP Complaint Line

(780) 788-4040

For Emergency Assistance


Printable Resources

Download and print a copy of these resources from the Wood Buffalo Elder Abuse Network ( WBEAN ) to learn more about the signs of elder abuse, the facts, and how to reach out for help.

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