Elder Abuse Symptoms and Reporting

According to the Government of Canada Elder Abuse: It’s Time to Face the Reality, any action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person, constitutes elder abuse.

elder abuse, abuse of seniors, neglect, financial abuse, physical abuse(Photo: Atlantic Regional Geriatric Education Center)

One in five Canadians believes they know of a senior citizen who might be experiencing abuse. Seniors from all walks of life are vulnerable to elder abuse and it is happening in communities across Canada.”

Financial abuse is the most commonly reported type of elder abuse, but neglect, physical, or psychological elder abuse are also common. Often, more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time, and abuse can be a single incident or a repeated pattern of behaviour.

Typically seniors and older adults are reluctant to report or talk to someone about being abused, because of shame or embarrassment. If the abuse is by a family member or someone who lives with or near them, they may be worried about repercussions or having to move away from their community or home.

Symptoms of Elder Abuse

Symptoms of neglect, or physical, psychological, or financial abuse of seniors may include:

  • poor hygiene
  • unexplained injuries
  • poor nutrition or dehydration; loss of weight
  • improper use of medication
  • loss of financial assets, property (including personal items), or cash flow problems
  • confusion over changes to financial or legal documents
  • fearful, anxious, depressed, or passive about a specific family member, friend, or care provider
  • reluctant to talk about their situation
  • isolation from family, friends, and/or regular activities

When and How to Report Suspected Elder Abuse

If the senior or elder is in imminent danger and you fear for their physical, emotional, or mental well-being, call 911 or your local police.

If the danger is not immediate then in:

Canada – consult the Government of Canada website for the specific provincial and territorial resources on elder abuse for the area the elder lives.

United States – elder abuse should be reported to the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in the state where the elder lives. Consult the National Center on Elder Abuse website for the contact information for a particular state.

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