About elder abuse

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Definition of elder abuse >
Various types of elder abuse >
Physical abuse >
Sexual abuse >
Psychological abuse (verbal and emotional) >
Material exploitation (financial abuse) >
Violation of rights >
Ageism and social abuse >
Neglect >
Possible consequences of elder abuse >


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Definition of elder abuse

“There is abuse when a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurs within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” (WHO, 2002 Action Plan MFA)

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Various types of elder abuse

There are several types of elder abuse. It is important to note that they are not mutually exclusive and when combined to the existing problems seniors may face, they complicate the evaluation and the intervention.

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Physical abuse

Definition: To cause physical harm to the person


  • Violence: pushing, shaking, kicking, burning, beating, killing
  • Neglect: not assisting a person for food or hygiene; not accompanying them to the bathroom

Possible indicators: Bruises, wounds, weight loss, lack of cleanliness of the environment, skin diseases, etc.

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Sexual abuse

Definition: Act of a sexual nature involving a senior (without their consent) in which force, coercion or implicit or explicit threats are used.


  • Fondling, suggestive remarks or attitudes, intercourse, loss of privacy, rape
  • Possible indicators: infections or genital ulcers, anxiety when changing clothes or bathing, mistrust of others, etc…

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Psychological abuse (verbal and emotional)

Definition: To cause emotional pain or distress to the person


  • Violence: powerlessness, emotional blackmail, humiliation, intimidation, excessive surveillance activities, vilification, threats, treat like children
  • Neglect: Ignore social isolation.

Possible indicators: Symptoms of depression, apathy, rapid decline of cognitive skills, etc…

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Material exploitation (financial abuse)

Definition: Exploitation, misuse of funds or property of a senior


  • Violence: Forcing a senior to change his will, using his credit or debit card without his consent, overcharging for services rendered.
  • Neglect: not assisting in the management of the person’s goods or not providing the money and goods necessary when one acts as the manager of the person’s goods.

Possible indicators: unusual transactions in the bank account, disappearance of valuables, no money for current expenses, etc…

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Violation of rights

Definition: Not recognizing the senior’s rights


  • Violence: Preventing a senior from exercising a control on their right to vote, their right to intimacy, their right to receive phone calls or visits, their right to practice their religion.
  • Neglect: Not assisting a senior who needs assistance to exercise their rights.

Possible indicators: the senior is not consulted on decisions affecting them (medical, financial transactions, choice of living environment) etc.

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Ageism and social abuse

Definition: Discriminatory behaviour toward the senior. Attitude or belief that seniors are inferior to the rest of the population.


Imposing restrictions and social norms on seniors because of their age, reducing accessibility to certain resources.

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  • Active Neglect: the act of deliberately omitting to meet the physical or psychological needs of the senior
  • Passive Neglect: Not meeting the senior’s needs without malevolent intention. This may be due to an incapacity or lack of knowledge.

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Possible consequences of elder abuse

The consequences for the victim of abuse and mistreatment should never be underestimated:

  • Shame, humiliation
  • Sadness, anger
  • Fear, distress
  • Depression, suicide, death

Each type of abuse can lead to specific consequences that require specific interventions (injuries, poverty, etc…).

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Elder abuse has a tendency, like domestic violence, to become more frequent and more severe over time.