Forms of Abuse

Elder abuse takes many different forms: emotional, physical, financial and neglect.

Financial Abuse

The most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse, is defined as any improper conduct, done with or without the informed consent of the senior that results in a monetary or personal gain to the abuser and/or monetary or personal loss for the older adult.
In the experience of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, most financial abuse is perpetrated by family members.
Elder Abuse – Financial Abuse of Seniors

Financial abuse indicators include:

  • Misusing a senior’s property and/or funds, Power of Attorney
  • Theft, forgery
  • Sharing the senior’s home without paying a fair share of the expenses.
  • Unexplained disappearance of personal belongings, such as clothes or jewellery
  • Unduly pressuring a senior to:
    • Move from, sell, or relinquish his or her home or other personal property
    • Sign legal documents that they do not fully understand
    • Give money to relatives or caregivers

How Do I Recognize Financial Abuse?

  • Unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts or ATM withdrawals
  • Suspicious or forged signatures on cheques or other documents
  • The senior is not receiving bank statements
  • Transfer or withdrawal of funds without prior permission
  • Denial to access or control finances such as credit cards, cheques

Living Status

  • Notice of eviction or discontinuation of utilities
  • Older adult is unable to pay bills, buy food or pay rent
  • Standard of living not in keeping with the senior’s income or assets
  • The older person’s home is unexpectedly sold
  • Power of Attorney refuses to consider moving an older adult to Long-Term Care or Retirement Home in order to gain or retain access to their finances

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Psychological Abuse

Emotional and Psychological abuse is any action, verbal or non-verbal, that lessens a person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth.
Elder Abuse – Psychological Abuse of Seniors

How Do I Recognize Emotional Abuse?

  • Words that are hurtful make the senior feel unworthy.
  • Not considering a person’s wishes. Removal of decision-making powers
  • Not respecting a person’s belongings or pets.
  • Threatening a senior,” Give me gas money or I won’t take you to visit your grandchildren.”
  • Treating a senior like a child.
  • Shunning, ignoring or lack of acknowledgement
  • Verbal intimidation, being forced into making decisions against the seniors’ will.
  • Threats of institutionalization – “Do what I say or I’ll put you in a home”
  • Not allowing the senior to socialize, including access to telephone, friends, neighbours, or attending social gatherings
  • Withholding of affection, such as refusing access to grandchildren

Signs of Psychological Abuse

  • Low self-esteem, withdrawal
  • Tearfulness
  • Lack of eye contact with health care providers
  • Fearfulness – Nervous around caregiver or other persons
  • Reluctance to talk openly, waits for caregiver to respond to questions asked of them
  • Helplessness
  • Insomnia/sleep deprivation/fatigue, listlessness

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Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any act of violence or rough handling that may or may not result in physical injury but causes physical discomfort or pain.
Physical abuse can be:

  • Pushing, kicking, shoving, shaking
  • Hitting, slapping, poking
  • Pulling hair, biting, pinching, arm twisting
  • Spitting at someone
  • Confining or restraining a person inappropriately

Elder Abuse – Physical Abuse of Seniors

How Do I Recognize Physical Abuse?
Indicators of physical abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries such as broken bones, bruises, bumps, cuts, grip marks
  • Discrepancies between injury and explanation from the senior
  • Unusual patterns of injuries
  • Seen by different doctors or hospitals
  • Bruising and abrasions

Signs of physical abuse:

  • Signs of under/over medication
  • Open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries
  • Sprains, dislocations, internal injuries
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Signs of being restrained

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Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour directed toward an older adult without that person’s full knowledge and consent; it includes coercing an older person through force, trickery, threats or other means into unwanted sexual activity.
Sexual abuse also includes sexual contact with seniors who are unable to grant consent and unwanted sexual contact between service providers and their elderly clients. Sexual abuse can be very difficult to identify as embarrassment and shame may prevent the issue from being talked about or reported.
How Do I Recognize Sexual Abuse?
Sexual Abuse can be:

  • Unwanted sexual contact such as touching, sexualized kissing
  • Making sexual remarks and/or suggestions to another person
  • Forcing a person to perform a sexual act
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Fondling a confused senior
  • Forced intercourse/rape.
  • Coerced nudity and sexually explicit photographing.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Bruising around the breasts, inner thighs or genital area
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Inappropriate sexual comments

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Neglect is not meeting the basic needs of the older person;

  1. Active (intentional) neglect: the deliberate withholding of care or the basic necessities of life to an older adult for whom they are caring.
  2.  Passive (unintentional) neglect: the failure to provide proper care to an older adult due to lack of knowledge, experience /ability or unaware of how to access local

Neglect can be:

  • Withholding care or denying access to necessary services (home care, nursing) or medical attention
  • Leaving a person in an unsafe place
  • Improper use of medication – over/under medicating
  • Not providing food or liquids, proper clothing or hygiene
  • Failure to assist with activities of daily living
  • Abandonment
  • Denial of a senior’s basic rights

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