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.
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:
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.