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Elder abuse is most often defined as:

single or repeated acts, lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

Forms of Elder Abuse
    • Physical Abuse
    • Psychological (Emotional) Abuse
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Financial Abuse
    • Neglect
    • Other Forms of Abuse
    • Examples of Non-Abuse
    • World Health Organization - Elder Abuse
      Source: Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

Physical Abuse
Any physical pain or injury that is willfully inflicted upon a person or unreasonable confinement or punishment, resulting in physical harm, is abuse. Physical abuse includes: hitting, slapping, pinching, pushing, burning, pulling hair, shaking, physical restraint, physical coercion, forced feeding or withholding physical necessities.

Psychological (Emotional) Abuse
The willful infliction of mental anguish or the provocation of fear of violence or isolation is known as psychological or emotional abuse. This kind of abuse diminishes the identity, dignity and self-worth of the senior. Forms of psychological abuse include a number of behaviors, for example: name-calling; yelling; ignoring the person; scolding or shouting; insults; threats; provoking fear, intimidation or humiliation; infantalization; emotional deprivation; isolation; and removal of decision-making power.

Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is understood as contact resulting from threats or force or the inability of a person to give consent. It includes, but is not limited to: assault; rape; sexual harassment; intercourse without consent; fondling a confused senior; intimately touching a senior during bathing; exposing oneself to others; inappropriate sexual comments; or any sexual activity that occurs when one or both parties cannot, or do not, consent.

Financial Abuse
The most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse, often refers to the theft or misuse of money or property like household goods, clothes or jewelry. It can also include withholding funds and/or fraud. 

Neglect
Neglect can be intentional (active) or unintentional (passive) and occurs when a person who has care or custody of a dependent senior fails to meet his/her needs.

Forms of neglect include:
    • withholding or inadequate provision of physical requirements, such as food, housing, medicine, clothing or physical aids;
    • inadequate hygiene;
    • inadequate supervision/safety precautions;
    • withholding medical services, including medications;
    • overmedicating;
    • allowing a senior to live in unsanitary or poorly heated conditions;
    • denying access to necessary services (e.g. homemaking, nursing, social work, etc.) or denial of a senior's basic rights.
For a variety of reasons, seniors themselves may fail to provide adequate care for their own needs and this form of abuse is called self-neglect.

Other Forms of Abuse
Systemic Abuse - Our society, and the systems that develop within it, can generate, permit or perpetuate elder abuse. Most prevalent is discrimination against seniors, due to their age and often combined with any of these additional factors: gender, race, colour, language, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, or geographic location.

Examples of Non-Abuse
Not all situations that may be of concern to a senior's family, friends or caregivers are considered elder abuse. Seniors choosing to give money, gifts or excessive attention to a much younger member of the opposite sex is not abuse. Nor is a well-to-do senior choosing to live in sparse conditions.

World Health Organization - Elder Abuse
From the World Health Organization (WHO). More information on elder abuse is available on the WHO web site:

This resource was created in partnership with the Regional Elder Abuse Prevention Network and the South East Community Care Access Centre/SouthEasthealthline.ca.