What is Elder Abuse?Elder abuse, or the abuse of older adults, is often defined as any act or omission that harms a senior or jeopardizes his or her health or welfare. The World Health Organization defines abuse of older adults as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person.”
Elder abuse can take place in the home, in other residential settings, or in the community.
It is estimated that between four and ten per cent of Ontario’s seniors experience some type of abuse.
What are the Types of Abuse?There are many types of elder abuse. Persons may experience more than one type of abuse at the same time.
Physical AbuseAny act of violence or rough treatment causing injury or physical discomfort. This may include the inappropriate and/or unwarranted use of physical or chemical restraints (i.e. medications). Examples include: pushing, hitting, rough handling, scalding.
Psychological AbuseThis is sometimes called emotional abuse. Psychological abuse includes any act or treatment that may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth of the older adult, including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation and infantilization (treating an older adult as if he or she is a young child). Examples include: threatening the older adult, insulting the older adult, excluding the older adult from decision-making when the person is capable.
Sexual AbuseAny sexual behaviour directed toward an older adult without that person’s full knowledge and consent. Examples include: sexual assault, sexual harassment, fondling, sexual comments or jokes.
Financial AbuseThis is sometimes called material abuse. Financial abuse is the misuse of an older adult’s funds and assets without that person’s knowledge and/or full consent; or in the case of an older adult who is not mentally capable, not in that person’s best interests. It can also involve the misuse of a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. Examples include: use of an older adult’s money for purposes other than what was intended by the older adult, cashing pension or other cheques without authorization.
NeglectIntentional withholding of basic necessities or care (active neglect) or not providing basic necessities or care because of a lack of experience, information or ability (passive neglect). Examples include: denying the older person food/water, denying visits from family or friends.
OtherThere are various other types of abuse that are being recognized such as medication abuse and spiritual abuse. All types of abuse or neglect hurt the older person.
Victims of elder abuse may show signs of:
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse?
•Depression, fear, anxiety, passivity
•Unexplained physical injury
•Lack of food, clothing and other necessities
•Changes in hygiene and nutrition (e.g. signs of malnutrition)
•Failure to meet financial obligations
•Unusual banking withdrawals
Who are the Abusers?Elder abuse can be caused by family members, friends, paid care providers, landlords, staff or any individual in a position of trust and authority. Most elder abuse is caused by a family member of the victim.
What Should I Do if I Am Being Abused?If you are being abused, you should know:
•You do not deserve to be abused.
•You are not to blame for the abuse.
•You have a right to live without fear.
•You have the right to a safe, healthy environment and healthy relationships.
•Abuse often gets worse over time.
•You have the right to control your own life and make your own decisions.
•You are not alone. Others have experienced abuse and many have found ways to deal with these situations.
You may or may not want to leave the situation, or take action, but it is important to know your options, and that help is available.
Steps you can take to seek help:
•Tell someone you trust what is happening to you.
•If someone is hurting or threatening you, or if it is not safe for you where you are, call the police.
•Talk with people to learn more about resources available in your community. Find out your options to take care of your personal needs and financial security.
•Make a safety plan in case you have to leave quickly.
This information was provided by the Ontario Seniors' Secretariat
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