Increasing Awareness of Elder Abuse

Katie LairdPsychotherapy

What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is an important public health issue that deserves our attention. The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “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. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity.”

How common is elder abuse in Canada?
Studies suggest that 8-10% of seniors experience elder abuse (750,000 seniors in Canada); however, it is suspected that this is one of the most underreported crimes in Canada. 

The CEO of CanAge, a national seniors advocacy group, says “On a usual day, one in five older Canadians are subject to elder abuse. We are seeing a ten-fold increase in elder abuse across the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What are the warning signs?

  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts, or sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions and poor hygiene
  • Unattended medical needs
  • Dehydration or sudden weight loss
  • Increased fear or anxiety
  • Isolations from friends or family
  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Fraudulent signatures on financial documents
  • Unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns, will or other financial documents
  • Unpaid bills

What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?

  • Social isolation- the senior and caregiver being alone together most of the time
  • Mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Disability
  • Depression or substance abuse in the caregiver
  • Lack of support from other potential caregivers
  • The caregiver’s perception that taking care of the individual is a burden to them without emotional reward

Who are the perpetrators?
The abuser is usually a family member; two thirds are adult children or spouses. Others are professional caregivers or close friends in a position of trust.

How to get help:
Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger. For further resources, please visit:

If you are affected by elder abuse or would like to begin counselling, please feel free to book a counselling appointment with our Provisional Psychologist, Katie Laird by emailing her at or booking online.