What to do if you are a victim of elder abuse or suspect it is happening

Region: Ontario Answer # 1722

If you are a victim of elder abuse, or you suspect someone else is being abused, you have many options for help, including reporting your concerns to the police or to health or social services.

Know the warning signs

The following may be warning signs of elder abuse:

  • changes in mood (depression, fear, anxiety or anger)
  • changes in behaviour (isolating or withdrawing from family or friends)
  • unexplained injuries ( broken bones, cuts, or bruises)
  • neglect (lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, hydration, clothing)
  • weight loss or malnourishment
  • unsafe or unsanitary living conditions (lack of heat, soiled bedding, bug infestations)
  • failure to meet financial obligations, large bank withdrawals, strange or unexplainable transactions
  • changes in living arrangements (people moving in or being forced out)

If you are victim of elder abuse

If you are an older adult who is being abused, you should call the police if you are in immediate danger or contact other available services (listed below). You can also:

  • Ask others for help or confide in someone you trust, such as:
    • your family doctor or other medical care provider
    • a family member or friend
    • your priest, paster or spiritual leader
  • Ask others about resources and services available in your community
  • Find out your options to take care of your personal needs and financial security
  • Create a safety plan in case you have to leave quickly

Is it mandatory to report elder abuse?

In most cases, the law does not require anyone to report the abuse. However, sometimes a person’s job responsibilities or professional code of conduct might require them to report.

For instance, it is mandatory to report elder abuse when an older adult resides in a long-term care home or a retirement home and elder abuse has taken place or is suspected. View topic 1723 Elder abuse in long-term care and retirement homes for more information.

Where to report


In many municipal police services throughout the province, there are police officers assigned to deal specifically with elder abuse. The police will determine whether or not to investigate a report based on many different factors and can lay Criminal Code charges if they have reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed. A list of RCMP and local police agencies can be found here, or refer to:

Seniors Safety Line

The Seniors Safety Line, run by the Assaulted Women’s Helpline (AWHL), is a toll-free confidential telephone support service providing information, referrals and support, 24 hours a day in 200 languages.

Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT)

If anyone believes that a senior or any other adult is not mentally capable and is personally at risk of serious harm, or the senior’s money or property is at serious risk, that person may also report this to the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee. The Public Guardian and Trustee is required to investigate all reports, and in serious cases, to become the senior’s or the adult’s guardian to help or protect them. The Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) may also get help from the police or other services. Visit the OPGT for more information.

Other resources

Seniors can also seek help from a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), seniors community groups, elder abuse action committees, or local legal clinics. Visit CCAC to find a listing of Community Care Access Centres.

Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario (EAPO): as well as operating the Seniors’ Safety Line, EAPO is the leading provincial organization whose mission is to prevent elder abuse, by providing education, training, resource development and information on the subject.

Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is a community based legal clinic for low income senior citizens that provides legal services and public legal education.

Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) is a national organization that shares information and coordinates resources for the prevention of elder abuse.

Ontario’s Strategy to Combat Elder Abuse

There are various government departments and not-for-profit organizations which provide services to seniors. Ontario’s Strategy to Combat Elder Abuse is an initiative developed by the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility. The Ministry partnered with the Ontario Victim Services Secretariat, Ministry of the Attorney General, and Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario to implement the Strategy.  It’s three key priorities are:

  1. Coordination of community services;
  2. Training for front-line staff; and
  3. Public education to raise awareness.

In the program, Elder Abuse Regional Consultants across the province act as a key resource to justice and community service providers and local elder abuse networks to help promote and support efforts in addressing and preventing elder abuse. For more information about Ontario’s Strategy to Combat Elder Abuse, visit the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.

More info

The Ministry of the Attorney General provides further information and resources on elder abuse and what to do if someone is being abused. Visit Ontario.ca. Or visit the Government of Canada’s website at justice.gc.ca

More information can also be found in other sections of Seniors/Elder Law, or visit our Links for further resources. For legal help, contact a lawyer.


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