ELDER ABUSE WARNING SIGNS

Elder Abuse can happen to any senior regardless of gender, race or economic status. Whether it’s financial, emotional, physical, sexual or neglect, it’s abuse and it's wrong.


All that is needed is suspicion of elder abuse, not PROOF.
Anyone can call the Elder Abuse line for support.
905-459-7777 press 1 for English, press 3 for Elder Abuse.
Services also available in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin.


How you can help…

Whether a senior reaches out to you, or a neighbour confides in you or you witness something at the mall -- here is what you can do to help.

Talk to Them: Tell them you are worried about them and ask if they are ok.

Listen Without Judgement: Please listen to their story with empathy. You may be the only one they have ever disclosed this to. Even if what they are doing isn’t what you would do, this is about them and what they want. Do not say things such as “You should do this” or “You shouldn’t do that”. That is judgmental and it is not nice to “should” on people. Tell them how sorry you are that they are going through this. Thank them for having the courage to speak up and that abuse is NEVER okay and they are NOT to blame.

Ask: “How can I help?” Let them decide what they need from you. Not what you may think they need to do. They are the experts in what they want.

What is Wanted: Ask them “What do you want to see happen? It’s their choice. They have the right to make a good or bad choice, they are adults. Help them to understand what is wanted and what they would like to see happen and how they think they can make that happen. What have they tried in the past that was successful?

Empower: Empower them to make their own choice. What would it look like if things changed the way they wanted them to. What would their life look like? How would things be better? Ask them what steps they can take or want to take.

Options: Do they know their options? Or what options are available? They can call Spectra Helpline where they will be connected to a supportive and caring volunteer who will help them get the help they need.

 For more information visit:  www.elderabuseontario.com 

Download Spectra Helplines eBook on Elder Abuse


Types of Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse can take many forms, but it's wrong. Some forms of Elder Abuse are:


Financial Abuse


Financial Abuse is described as: any improper conduct, done with or without the informed consent of the older adult, which results in monetary and/or personal gain to the abuser and/or monetary/personal loss to the older adult.

Misuse of Power of Attorney (POA)

  • Stealing or misusing money, cheques or property
  • Pressuring a person to change a Will, sell property, or other assets/personal belongings
  • Being pressured to loan money
  • Fraud, forgery, or extortion
  • Living in a seniors' home without paying a fair share of the expenses
  • Misusing bank or credit cards
  • Misusing joint banking accounts
  • Forging a signature on pension cheques or legal documents

Recognizing Financial Abuse

  • Personal belongings go missing
  • Notice of eviction or discontinuation of utilities
  • Older adult is unable to pay bills, buy food or pay rent
  • Standard of living not in keeping with the senior’s income or assets
  • Unexpected sale of the home or changes made to their Will
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Power of Attorney refuses to consider moving an older adult to Long-Term Care or Retirement Home in order to gain or retain access to their finances
  • The older person seems nervous or worried when discussing money
  • New ‘best friends’
  • Large sums of money go missing from the older person’s bank account
  • Suspicious or forged signatures on cheques or other documents
  • Older adult is in debt with no known cause
  • Older adult is asked to sign documents without understanding them
  • Transfer or withdrawal of funds without prior permission
  • Denial to access or control

Emotional/Psychological Abuse


Emotional Abuse is defined as: any action, verbal or non-verbal, that lessens a person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. It includes any attempt to demoralize, dehumanize or intimidate.

Denying Emotional Responsiveness

  • Failing to provide care in a sensitive and responsive manner
  • Interacting in a detached and uninvolved way
  • Interacting only when necessary
  • Removal of decision making process
  • Inappropriately infringing on their privacy
  • Shunning, or a lack of acknowledgement

Ignoring

  • Purposefully not acknowledging the presence, value or contribution of the senior
  • Ignoring the senior, acting as though they were not there
  • Making fun of or preventing the senior from practicing their faith or religion

Denying or Forgetting

  • Denying that any abuse has taken place
  • Telling them that no one would believe the accusations (it’s all in their head)
  • Forgetting promises or agreements
  • Minimizing/Trivializing
  • Denying access to grandchildren of friends, family or regular activities
  • Refusing to validate the other person’s feelings of hurt
  • Suggesting that nobody else would be upset by the same treatment

Accusing, Blaming, Jealous Control

  • Telling a person repeatedly that they have caused the abuse
  • Criticizing behaviour and ridiculing traits
  • Continuously finding fault with the older adult
  • Making the person feel nothing they do is ever right
  • Setting unrealistic standards or mimicking them
  • Belittling the person’s thoughts, ideas and achievements
  • Diminishing the identity, dignity and self-worth of the person

Degrading

  • Insulting, ridiculing, name calling, labeling the senior as stupid
  • Gossiping, making up rumours about the senior
  • Humiliating, shaming, criticism, put downs
  • Bullying (including on the internet)
  • Treating a senior like a child
  • Yelling, shouting, swearing, harassing-repeatedly

Rejecting

  • Refusing to acknowledge a person’s presence, value or worth
  • Communicating to a person that they are useless or inferior
  • Devaluing their thoughts and feelings
  • Not considering a person’s wishes

Terrorizing

  • Inducing terror or extreme fear in a person through coercion or intimidation
  • Threatening to hurt or kill a pet or a loved one
  • Threating to destroy possessions
  • Threats of violence or abandonment
  • Threatening to have the person deported or placed in an institution
  • Verbal intimidation, being forced into making decisions against the senior's wishes

Will (e.g.,“Give me gas money or I won’t take you to visit your grandchildren”) Isolating

  • Physically confining the person
  • Controlling- not allowing older adults to socialize, including limited access to telephone, friends, or attending social gatherings
  • Limiting freedom and excluding older adult from personal decisions
  • Locking a senior in a closet or room
  • Refusing a person access to their own or jointly owned money
  • Depriving a person of mobility aids or transportation
  • Using others as pawns in relationships

Discounting

  • Not giving any credence to the person’s point of view
  • Not validating the persons feelings
  • Claiming the behaviour was meant as a joke
  • Manipulating them into doing what the abuser wants

 

Recognizing Behavioural Signs of Emotional Abuse

Signs that may indicate that an older adult is/has experienced emotional abuse include changes in their normal routines, behaviour, as well as their mental health. Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior may also be mistaken for memory loss or illness, when they are the effects of stress or worry resulting from emotional abuse the senior is experiencing.

  • Fear, discomfort or nervousness around family members, friends, caregiver or other persons
  • Unusual withdrawal from family and friends- lack of interest in social contacts
  • Passivity, or increasing depression without any apparent reason
  • Unexplained feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or anxiety, low self-esteem
  • Heightened levels of upset or agitation
  • Contradictory statements or other ambivalence not resulting from mental confusion
  • Reluctance to talk openly, may wait for caregiver to respond to questions asked of them
  • Uncommunicative and unresponsive
  • Avoidance of physical, eye or verbal contact with caregiver and/or health care providers
  • Difficulty with normal life transitions (i.e., Retirement)
  • Extreme passivity and (possible rocking, sucking, biting) commonly associated with dementia and therefore may be misdiagnosed as dementia
  • Change in eating patterns - sudden loss of appetite unrelated to physical disease or aging
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Substance abuse (in particular, alcohol)
  • Self-harming

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse is defined as: non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment, acute or chronic illness, distress, or death. These include:

  • Striking (with or without an object or weapon)
  • Hitting, slapping
  • Scratching
  • Biting
  • Choking
  • Pushing, shoving, shaking
  • Kicking, stomping
  • Pinching
  • Spitting
  • Burning
  • Keeping a person confined for long periods of time (for example: locked in a room; placed in a wheelchair)
  • Giving too much or too little medicine(s)

Neglect
Neglect is defined as: not meeting the basic needs of the older adult. There is Active Neglect which is intentional, or the deliberate withholding of care or the basic necessities of life (including care). And there is Passive Neglect which is unintentional, or the failure to provide proper care due to lack of knowledge, experience or ability.

  • Inadequate nutrition, clothing and other necessities
  • Inadequate personal care, e.g. failing to turn a bedridden older adult frequently
  • Unsafe and uncomfortable conditions
  • An unclean environment
  • A lack of personal cleanliness/hygiene
  • Insufficient bathroom space for privacy
  • Insufficient space for personal privacy
  • Not providing transportation/assistance to get to necessary appointments
  • The lack of, at least occasional, outings
  • Leaving incapacitated adults alone too long or failing to remain with those who need help
  • Abandonment (as citied in EAO, Neglect in Older Adults)

*Both intentional or unintentional types of neglect are considered criminal offences

Sexual Abuse

Non-consensual sexual contact, of any kind, with an older adult. Sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent is considered sexual abuse. (EAO) These include:

  • Unwanted touching
  • All types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy or coerced nudity
  • Sexually explicit photographing

Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment is defined as: engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome. Ontario Human Rights Code Sexual violence toward an older adult is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or force, and can include:

  • Unwanted sexual touching or kissing
  • Fondling or sexual intercourse without consent
  • Unnecessary touching of genital area, that is not part of the care plan
  • Making sexual remarks and/or suggestions
  • Forced viewing of pornography
  • Incest
  • Sexual threats
  • Marital or partner rape
  • Unwanted sexual exploitation
  • Sexual contact, sexual harassment
  • Exposure and voyeurism
  • Unwanted sexual activity, such as verbal or suggestive behaviours
  • Gender-related comments about a person’s physical characteristics or mannerisms
  • Harmful genital practices (unnecessary during provision of personal care)

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

Older adult victims can experience serious effects and long-term impacts from sexual violence. Due to age-related physiological changes, older victims tend to sustain more severe physical injuries and emotional trauma as a result of an assault.

Behaviours

  • Fear, mistrust or paranoia
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Anger, aggression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overly sexual
  • Confused
  • Withdrawn and wants to be alone
  • Experiences suicidal thought or attempts
  • Discomfort, avoidance in presence of specific people

Physical

  • Torn or stained underclothing
  • Unexplained and frequent urinary tract infections
  • Genital infections paired with frequent or painful urination
  • Trouble sitting or walking
  • Bruising and swelling on inner thighs, vaginal, rectal areas
  • Pain and bleeding in genital area
  • Imprint injuries, bruising behind neck, bite marks, scratches
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
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