What is elder abuse?

Region: Ontario Answer # 1720

Elder abuse occurs when a person in a position of trust or authority harms a senior. This person may be a family member, neighbour, nurse, landlord, caregiver and so on.

Types of elder abuse

The most common types of elder abuse are the following:

Physical abuse

Physical abuse refers to any act of violence or physical treatment that may or may not result in physical injury but causes physical discomfort or pain. It can include physical assault such as slapping or beating, or forced confinement.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is sexual assault or any type of sexual behaviour against an older adult without their full knowledge and consent. It includes coercing an older person through force, trickery, threats or other means into unwanted sexual activity.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is any improper conduct that leads to a financial (monetary) or personal gain to the abuser and/or financial (monetary) or personal loss for the older adult. It may be done with or without the older adult’s informed consent, and includes stealing, fraud or misusing a Power of Attorney.


Neglect refers to the failure to meet the individual’s physical and mental well-being, such as abandonment or withholding food or health services.

Psychological and emotional abuse

Psychological and emotional abuse refers to any verbal or non-verbal action that diminishes an individual’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. This may include humiliating or treating an older person like a child.

Institutional abuse

Crime and abuse in institutional settings is another common type of elder abuse. It refers to social practices, policies, and rules or regulations that harm or discriminate against older adults in an institutional settings. It is also called systemic abuse. It can be any form of abuse, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Warning signs of abuse

The following may be warning signs that a senior is being abused:

  • changes in mood (depression, fear, anxiety or detachment)
  • changes in behaviour (social withdrawal)
  • physical harm (unexplained injuries)
  • neglect (lack of hygiene, food, clothing)
  • failure to meet financial obligations or unusual bank withdrawals
  • changes in living arrangements ( people moving in or being forced out)

More info

For more information, visit other sections of Seniors/Elder Law. For further resources view our Links, or visit the Government of Canada’s website at justice.gc.ca. For legal help, contact a lawyer.


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