What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. It can be physical, sexual, financial, and psychological or neglect.

Many people do not discuss their concerns with others because of feelings of shame, fear of retaliation, the involvement of family members or fear they will be institutionalised. Some people may not realise what they are experiencing is abuse, or feel that somehow it is their fault.

Elder abuse can include:-

  • slapping, hitting, pushing or restraining
  • frightening someone by threatening to hurt a pet or break belongings
  • stopping a person from seeing family or friends
  • pension skimming
  • selling belongings without permission
  • misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by taking money or property improperly
  • forcing a person to change their will
  • denying someone access or control of their own funds
  • intimidating, humiliating, or harassing a person
  • threatening to evict someone or put them in a nursing home
  • making unwanted sexual approaches or behaving indecently
  • denying someone the right to make their own decisions
  • not allowing services to help someone
  • neglecting a person's physical, medical or emotional needs

Signs that someone may be experiencing abuse

The person may be:-

  • afraid of someone close to them
  • irritable, or shaking, trembling or crying
  • depressed or withdrawn, talking of suicide
  • uninterested in their usual interests
  • presenting as helpless, hopeless or sad
  • worried or anxious for no obvious reason
  • reluctant to talk openly.

They may:-

  • change their sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • have a rigid posture
  • make contradictory statements not associated with mental confusion
  • wait for another person to answer rather than answer questions themselves
  • radically change their behaviour.

If you know or suspect someone is being abused, you can:-

  • Let them know that help is available.
  • Invite them to talk in a place where they are alone and safe, and listen to them.
  • Let them know it is not their fault.
  • Respect their right to make their own decisions.
  • Avoid being critical of the abusive person.
  • Keep providing support, even if they refuse help.

Text © The State of Queensland 2012, About Elder Abuse, http://www.qld.gov.au/seniors/safety-protection/elder-abuse/ Last updated: 13 March, 2012; Viewed 26 October, 2012.

© S. D. Goeldner, 2012. Last updated August, 2019.

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