Older Adult Abuse

Forms of Elder Abuse

Physical Abuse

Unexplained reason or explanation inconsistent with

  • Bruises
  • Welts
  • Swelling
  • Lacerations
  • Punctures
  • Fractures
  • Restricted movement
  • Repeated falls
  • Internal injuries
  • Rope burns
  • Hypothermia
  • Grip marks

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

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes any sort of unwanted sexual contact perpetrated on a victim by an abuser. Inappropriate touching (with or without intercourse), gang rape, ritual abuse, female genital mutilation and partner or date rapes are all instances of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse also occurs if one partner has agreed to a certain level of sexual activity and another level is forced upon her without prior explicit consent being given. In many instances, threatening harm to their victims or to someone or something she cares about in order to compel her silence about the sexual assault. Responsibility is often misplaced from the perpetrator to the victim who may feel she has asked for it in some way. 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

In the older adult population financial abuse is prevalent due to different barriers and isolation which puts them at an increased risk.  The two most common forms of financial abuse committed against older adults include the misuse of power and manipulation.  Taking advantage of one’s position as power of attorney or financial manager instructed to them by an older adult are examples of misuse of power.  When the elder is dependent on his or her support network there is an increased chance of financial abuse because of the position of trust they are in and the power that they hold.  Examples of these types of manipulation include:

  • theft or misuse of money or property like household goods, clothes or jewelry. 
  • withholding funds
  •  fraud

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:

  • 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.


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

Forms of neglect include:

  • withholding or providing 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;
  • not intervening a senior to live in unsanitary or poorly heated conditions;
  • denying access to necessary services (e.g. homemaking, nursing, social work, etc.) or
  • denying of a senior's basic rights

Other Forms of Abuse

Another form of abuse is 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 such as:

  • gender,
  • race
  • colour
  • language
  • ethnic background
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • ability
  • economic status
  • geographic location

For more information regarding elder abuse, recognizing abuse and preventing elder abuse and neglect please refer to this website: www.onpea.org