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Elder abuse

Elder abuse

The definition of elder abuse is ‘A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person’. (Action Against Elder Abuse, 1995)

The abuse may be perpetrated by a partner, a child, or another family member or carer, within a position of trust. The abuse experienced by an older person may have started earlier in life and has persisted into old age, or it may be late onset abuse when a long-term relationship has turned abusive in old age. Alternatively, the abuse may be more recent when an older person finds themselves in an abusive relationship with a partner they have met later in life.

The abuse could be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect, abandonment, coercive or controlling behaviour or any other form of abuse where one person is exerting dominance over the other in a way that causes harm or distress.

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Questions & Answers

You may notice changes in an older person when you visit them, either at home, where they live with someone else, or in a care home. Some of the signs may be that they:

  • Stops taking part in activities she or he enjoys
  • Looks messy, with unwashed hair or dirty clothes
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Loses weight for no reason
  • Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated or violent
  • Displays signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth
  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or scars
  • Has broken eyeglasses/frames, or physical signs of punishment or being restrained
  • Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions
  • Lacks medical aids (glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, medications)
  • Has an eviction notice for unpaid rent, notice of late mortgage, or home eviction
  • Has hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions
  • Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources

(Reference: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse)

If the older person is at immediate risk of serious harm, always call the Police in the first instance. The Police will assess the risk and ensure the appropriate steps are taken for the safety of the individual. If the risk is not immediate, you can seek advice and support from local domestic abuse support services. The support may include a referral to social services, moving a survivor into refuge accommodation and other practical and emotional support to help the individual move on from the abuse.

Support Services

Support for Adults

Support for Children

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