What is Abuse?

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an elderly person by someone he or she relies on for care, assistance or interaction.  Abuse can come in many forms, and is not always visible.  Elder abuse is under-reported due to factors such as fear of retaliation by an abuser, fear of hurting their family, fear of being from their home, or due to not realizing that what they are experiencing is abuse.  Listed below are types of abuse an elderly person may experience.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse

  • Pushing
  • Shaking
  • Hitting
  • Restraining or improper use of restraints
  • Over-medicating (chemical restraint)
  • Under-medicating
  • Physical coercion
  • Forced feeding

Please click here to view a short video on physical abuse. Link will open in new window

Emotional (Psychological) Abuse

  • Insulting
  • Threatening
  • Humiliating
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Removal of decision making choices
  • Infantalization (treating an elder like a child)
  • Emotional deprivation
  • Removal of decision-making power
  • Verbal (yelling)

Please click here to view a short video on emotional (psychological) abuse. Link will open in a new window


  • Wrongful use of power of attorney
  • Improperly withholding pension cheques or other money
  • Theft of property
  • Fraud
  • Forcing the sale of property or possessions

Please click here to view a short video on financial abuse. Link will open in a new window

Sexual Abuse

  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Forced sexual touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Rape
  • Fondling of a confused elder
  • Exposing oneself to the elder
  • Lack of personal privacy


  • Denial of adequate nutrition
  • Denial of medical attention
  • Denial of proper shelter
  • Denial of clothing
  • Denial of assistive devices (cane, wheel chair, walker, glasses etc)
  • Inadequate hygiene
  • Inadequate supervision or safety precautions
  • Denial of necessary services
  • Abandonment

Systemic Abuse

  • Discrimination (age, race, gender, language, religion, sexual orientation economic status, ethnicity, or geographic location)

Violation of Rights

  • Censoring or interfering with a person’s mail
  • Withholding information to which a person is entitled
  • Restricting liberties, not allowing the elder to go out and/or socialize
  • Denying privacy, visitors, phone calls, or religious worship and spiritual practices


Sometimes people make decisions or act in ways that others feel are inappropriate. However, individuals have the right to make these types of decisions if they are mentally capable of understanding their decision and the consequences of their choices. Here are some examples of things which may cause concern to some people but are not situations of abuse:

  • The elder choosing to give money or gifts to a much younger person of the opposite sex, if the elder is mentally capable of decision-making
  • The elder choosing to live in ‘sparse’ conditions even though they could afford more