Elder abuse


Elder abuse is unacceptable and can happen to anyone.

Elder abuse is wrong because:

  • Elder abuse or goes against your basic rights to feel safe.
  • Elder abuse is controlling behaviour which makes you feel intimidated and afraid.
  • Elder abuse stops you from being able to make choices that are important to you
  • Elder abuse can stop you from seeing people that matter to you.
  • Elder abuse can be illegal.

What you should know about elder abuse

There are different types of elder abuse: 

  • Financial or material abuse.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse.
  • Neglect abuse.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse. 

Abuse can increase in frequency and severity over time and older people can experience more than one type of abuse.

People who abuse

In some cases the abuser may be moody or angry, and they may say things like:

  •     "It is your fault…".
  •     "Why do you make me do it?"
  •     "I wouldn’t get so angry if you…".
  •    "You’re useless".
  •     "You're pathetic".
  •    "You’re a pain/nuisance".

These comments could be made intentionally to make you feel bad about yourself or unintentionally out of frustration. Either way these negative statements can affect your self-esteem and can in the long run affect your mental health.  People abuse others for a number of reasons. According to Ramsey – Klawsnik (2000) there are five types of abuser: 

  1. Overwhelmed offenders: these people want to provide adequate care but the type of care that a person needs is more than they are able to give. 
  2. Impaired offenders: these are people who have problems that make them unable to care for others properly such as mental ill health, physical disabilities and so on.
  3. Narcissistic offenders: are motivated by personal gain, the "What’s in it for me?" mindset, not the desire to help others. These people tend to neglect or financially exploit other people. 
  4. Domineering or bullying offenders: believe their actions are justified and victim "deserved the abuse".
  5. Sadistic offenders: are people who feel powerful and important by humiliating others.

Types of abuse

Financial or material abuse can be:

  • Being pressurised to lend money to a relative or friends.
  • Being charged excessive amounts of money for service.
  • People frequently requesting small amounts of money from you.
  • Family members moving into your home without your consent and without a prior agreement on sharing costs.
  • Pressurising you to sign over your house or property.
  • Taking money, cashing a cheque or using credit or debit cards without your permission.
  • Pressurising you into changing a will.
  • Someone else taking charge of your benefits and not giving you all your money. 

Emotional or psychological abuse can be: 

  • Humiliation - for example making you feel ashamed of your behaviour or the way that you act.
  • Words or actions which put you down and make you feel unworthy, unwanted, unimportant or ignored.
  • Not respecting your right to privacy and dignity - for instance opening your mail without permission, or entering your bedroom or bathroom without knocking.
  • Not respecting your belongings.
  • If a person lends your belongings to someone else.
  • Denying you access to children, grandchildren, partners or other people who are important to you.
  • Not allowing you access to help from community services such as doctors or people who can provide you with information and advice about matters that are important to you.
  • Not considering your wishes.
  • A carer not providing you with choices i.e. what food you would like to eat or what clothes you would like to wear.
  • Being stopped from having these choices, robs us of our identity. This can also affect you on a spiritual level if clothing and the types of food you eat are part of your religious or cultural practice.
  • Ignoring your health needs.
  • Threatening to move out of your home and withdraw care.
  • Threatening to put you into a home.
  • Threatening harm or abandonment.
  • Confinement for example stopping you from going out, lock you in a bedroom or tying you to a chair or bed.
  • Verbal or racial abuse.
  • Overprotection - for example, not allowing you make choices and assuming that they know best.

Neglect can be on purpose or a matter of not understanding what your needs are:

  • Not giving you proper food or clothing.
  • Failure to provide a warm, safe, comfortable environment.
  • Not providing aids to support your mobility such as walking sticks, walking frames, wheelchairs and grab rails.
  • Failure to prevent physical harm.
  • If you have a support worker; failure to read and follow your support plan.
  • Not allowing you to go to the doctor for treatment or regular check-ups.
  • Not giving you medication in accordance with what the doctor has prescribed.
  • Failure to provide basic levels of care.
  • Ignoring calls for help.
  • Being treating in an inhuman of degrading way for example not assisting you to keep clean and fresh in the way that you would like to be.

Physical abuse can include:

  • Being hit, kicked, slapped, punched, shaken.
  • Burning you, pulling hair, biting, pinching.
  • Denial of food and water (this is physical abuse because over time this can affect how your body functions).
  • Creating an unsafe environment including temperature.
  • Over or misuse of medication.
  • Misuse of alcohol.
  • Sleep deprivation.

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that you are not comfortable with:

  • A person forcing you to have sexual intercourse or perform sexual acts that you do not want to do.
  • A person forcing you to watch pornographic material or sexual acts.
  • Denying you the right of a sexual partner.

Where to go for help 

You do not have to tolerate harassment, intimidation or being talked down to by anyone. If you are being mistreated in any way then you have a right to speak up, or make a complaint. If you feel abused or know somebody else who is being mistreated, call your local council adult protection team. If you are in immediate danger you should call the police on 999.

Advice line:
08000 223 444

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