Frequently Asked Questions
About Older Adult Abuse
1. What is older adult abuse?
older adult abuse is most often defined as:
"Single or repeated acts, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person." (WHO, 2002)
2. What are the incidence rates of older adult abuse?
The rate of occurrence is between 2% and 10%. (Lachs and Pillemer, The Lancet; October 2004; Volume 364; pp 1192-1263) Those who assist abused older adults believe that the rate of abuse is closer to 10%.
3. What is the most common form of older adult abuse?
Financial abuse is the most common form, followed
by neglect. Financial abuse can include frauds and scams as well
as improper use of the power of a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property.
4. What is Ontario's Strategy to Combat older adult abuse?
The government is delivering on its promise to create an Elder Abuse Strategy to protect vulnerable seniors. More information.
5. Is it mandatory to report older adult abuse?
No. Residences are regulated by the Tenant Protection Act, and mandatory reporting does not apply.
6 When should I report a suspected case of older adult abuse?
There are four different circumstances needing consideration when deciding whether or not to speak to someone about suspicions of abuse:
- If the situation is an emergency and you believe that the person for whom you are concerned is at risk, call "911."
- If you suspect an older adult is being abused but is not at risk of imminent harm, you should speak to that person. If your suspicions are confirmed you can then provide them with information regarding their rights or individuals/agencies who can assist them. If they are not ready to address the situation, offer your personal support until they are ready to take action.
- If the older adult does not have the capacity to understand their situation, phone the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) at 416-327-6348 or Toll-free at 1-800-366 0335. The OPGT will conduct an investigation.
- The only instance where reporting of suspected abuse of an older adult is mandatory is if that person resides in a Nursing Home, Home for the Aged or Charitable Home for the Aged (i.e., Long-Term Care Homes).
When abuse is suspected in a Long-Term Care Home, everyone, with the exception of residents themselves (who have a choice in the matter), is required to report to the Ministry of Long-Term Care at 1-866-434-0144
For more information, please see:
7. What are the signs of older adult abuse?
See the section Recognizing older adult abuse.
8. What constitutes neglect?
Neglect (intentional or unintentional) occurs when a person who has care or custody of a dependent older adult fails to meet that person's basic needs. A senior may be suffering from neglect if he or she appears:
- emaciated, malnourished or dehydrated
- inappropriately dressed
- under-medicated or over-medicated
- unkempt appearance or personal surroundings (i.e, soiled clothes or linens)
- has open sores
Signs of neglect in a senior's living environment include:
- home is dirty or in a state of disrepair
- smell of urine or feces in the home
- lack of required safety features in the home
Other possible indicators of neglect:
- the senior is left alone without supervision or assistance when needed
- medical appointments are cancelled on a regular basis or senior does not show up for the scheduled appointment
9. If I suspect someone I know if being abused,
can I do anything to help?
Yes. You can help by doing such things as dropping in for a visit, inviting them to your house for a visit, taking them with you on outings, offering to run errands (e.g. grocery shopping) and/or offering to assist them in contacting people with whom they have lost touch.
If they appear to be in need of assistance in caring for themselves or their home you could help by informing them of any home support services available through their local Community Care Access Centre and/or community senior support services such as those providing Meals on Wheels or Friendly Visiting.
A listing of contact information for your local Community Care Access Centre can be found their website www.ccac-ont.ca.
A listing of local community support services can be found on the Ontario Community Support Association's website www.ocsa.on.ca.
The Ontario Seniors' Secretariat's "A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario" is available on their website www.ontarioseniors.ca.
If you suspect the older adult may have Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia, information is available from your local Alzheimer Society www.alzheimer.ca.
10. If I suspect someone is being mistreated
in a nursing home, what can I do?
The only instance where there is mandatory reporting of suspected abuse of an adult is if that person resides in a Nursing Home, Home for the Aged or Charitable Home for the Aged (i.e. Long-Term Care Homes).
Please Note: Long-Term Care homes are not to be confused with Retirement/Care Homes (which are considered private residences and are regulated by the Tenant Protection Act and, therefore, mandatory reporting does not apply).
If you believe someone is being abused in a Nursing Home, you are required to report your suspicions to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care at 1-866-434-0144.
11. I am concerned that I may be an abuser; how do I know?
If you are concerned that you are neglecting, physically harming, emotionally harming, financially taking advantage of and/or not respecting the rights of an older adult, there is a chance that you are, in fact, abusing them.
12. If I am an abuser, can I get help?
Yes. Seek out the advice/assistance of a professional in ending your abusive behaviour.
You may wish to contact:
- a lawyer if you have been acting improperly as an Attorney for Property or for Personal Care
- your local mental health service for a referral to any community programs that are available to assist abusive persons
- your local Community Care Access Centre for information on the availability of home care/support for the older adult in your care
- your local Alzheimer Society if the older adult has a dementia
- your local crisis/distress line to speak to someone about your concerns and for referrals to local resources that are available to you
13. How can I find out about the rights of older adults?
See the section Legislation Protecting Elderly.