How to recognise elder abuse

Elder abuse may happen once or regularly over short or long periods of time.

The abuse can be:

  • physical – hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, inappropriate restraint, misuse of medication, inadequate monitoring of prescriptions
  • psychological – emotional abuse, threats of harm, threats of leaving or stopping care, lack of human contact, or stopping access to people who can advise or help
  • sexual – all unwanted sexual acts
  • financial or material, including theft from the abused person, fraud, or coercion regarding wills and any financial transactions
  • neglectful or just not doing something, for example ensuring that the person is eating or is warm and clean
  • discriminatory – racist, sexist, exploiting a disability or other forms of harassment or slurs

There are some tell-tale signs to look for:

  • unexplained bruising, fractures, open wounds and welts, and untreated injuries
  • poor general hygiene and weight loss
  • helplessness and fear – or any sudden change in behaviour
  • unexplained changes in a person’s finances and material well-being
  • questionable financial or legal documents, or the disappearance of those documents

Find out more on the ‘Action on Elder Abuse’ website.

Reporting to the police

Some types of abuse – including assault (sexual or physical), theft and fraud – are criminal offences and should be reported to the police, which may lead to prosecution following a criminal investigation.

You may feel too afraid to report abuse, especially if your carer is the abuser. But you are entitled to the protection of the law and to dignity and respect. Anyone concerned about a friend, relative or carer who is being abused needs to take action to prevent further abuse and protect others.


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