Abuse of Older Adults


Older adults are particularly vulnerable to abuse because they often rely on others, including family members or caregivers for assistance and support in daily living. As well, an older adult’s experiences of abuse may be related to their living arrangement (they may be living alone, with family members or others, or in an institution).

Abuse of older adults can take on the forms of physical, sexual, psychological/emotional and financial abuse or neglect.

Signs that an older adult is being abused

  • They might look like they were hit or beat up.
  • They might have cuts, bruises, sores, broken bones or other injuries that they pretend aren't there.  They might make up stories about how they got hurt.
  • They might seem scared or uncomfortable around certain people.
  • They might not be included in family gatherings.
  • They may be at home or in their room all the time, either because nobody is helping them get around or because somebody won't let them go out.
  • Their money might seem to disappear.
  • Their home might not be taken care of, and their bills might not get paid.
  • They might look too skinny from not getting enough food, or they might look sick from not getting the right kind of food.
  • They might be really tired because they can't get to sleep at night, or they might sleep all the time because they are sick or depressed.
  • They might not be able to keep clean, and their clothes might be dirty or torn up.
  • They might not be taking their medicine.

What can you do to help?

  • Encourage her or him to tell the community health representative, social services, a friend or the RCMP.
  • Call any of the NWT crisis lines, victim services or family violence shelters for help.
  • Make sure that older adults in your family and your community are not alone.
  • Listen to what elders have to say.
  • Check in on them and help them out when they need it.
  • Organize a community meeting to talk about help for older adults.
  • When there are elections in your community, your regions and in the NWT, support the candidates who will work hard to stop family violence.
  • If you are an older adult who is being abused, don't be scared or ashamed to ask for help.
  • Remember, you are not alone.

I'm an older adult. How can I protect myself?

  • Stay active and healthy.  If you able to get around, then go for walks, go to meetings, and run errands as much as you can.  As long as you are comfortable, make sure you are getting some exercise and fresh air everyday.
  • Keep in touch with your friends.  It is important to have people to talk to.  Get together with friends whenever you can.  You don't have to do anything special, just have a cup of tea and chat.  And remember that laughing is good for you!
  • Have your own phone, and take care of your own mail.
  • Be in control of your health.  If you have to take medicine, learn what it is and why you have to take it.  Don't be shy to ask your nurse lots of questions.  If you need someone to translate, make sure that person knows how important it is for you to understand exactly what the nurse is saying.
  • Be in control of your money.  If you are having someone help you with your statements, get someone to show you what they mean if you don't understand.
  • Know who to call.  There are people who can help if someone starts treating you badly.  You can call the Seniors' Information Line for non-emergency situations, toll-free at 1-800-661-0878.  It might help to talk to your nurse, the RCMP, someone at your church, or a friend you trust.

Why don't older adults tell someone about the abuse?

Older adults who are abused might not tell because:

  • They might feel afraid, embarrassed, ashamed, or alone.
  • They feel that being abused is their fault.
  • They might not want the person who is abusing them to get in trouble.
  • They might be afraid of making the abuse worse by telling.
  • They might think that violence is normal or okay.
  • They are worried about people gossiping.
  • They don't speak the same language as the nurse or RCMP.
  • They can't communicate well because of a disability.
  • They are afraid that people will think they are lying.
  • They don't want to get "outsiders" involved.
  • They don't know who to talk to.