World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a day meant to raise awareness about the prevalence of elder abuse around the world. It’s been observed globally every June 15 since 2006. 

This article will provide you with a solid overview of the topic, including what exactly constitutes elder abuse, who the perpetrators and victims are and what to look out for if you suspect someone you love is being abused.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is any kind of mistreatment or neglect that harms an older person. It can include physical, mental, sexual and financial abuse; denial of basic needs such as food, water and shelter; or the abandonment of someone who depends on you for care.

Although victims of elder abuse are well into their adulthood, some may be prone to self-neglect which requires the provision of basic needs from family members or caretakers. Self-neglect happens when a person with dementia fails to provide adequate care for themselves due to memory impairment.

Who is responsible for elder abuse?

Elder abuse can happen to anyone, at all stages of life. Anyone who has contact with an elder is responsible for ensuring their safety and well-being. Family members are often the first line of defence when it comes to protecting an elderly family member from abuse, but there are many other people who can play a role in this effort. These include caregivers (paid or unpaid), professionals (such as doctors and social workers), friends, neighbours and even strangers who may notice something amiss if they pay attention.

Elder abuse is never the fault of the victim themselves. However, some victims may have enabled their abuser by entering into a financially abusive relationship with someone they know or being vulnerable to exploitation through scams or frauds that target older adults.

Elder abuse statistics in Canada

  • 1 in 10 Canadians aged 65 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse.
  • 1 in 5 older adults (aged 65+) who live alone, or who are most socially isolated and least likely to be able to access help from family and friends, are at the highest risk for abuse.
  • Abuse can occur anywhere, but it is most likely to happen in the home or in institutional settings.

Types of elder abuse

There are many ways in which an older adult can be abused. Elder abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Physical – the use of force or physical actions that result in bodily harm. This could include hitting, shaking, pushing or restraint without proper cause.
  • Emotional – verbal or nonverbal conduct that causes psychological trauma or mental injury to an older adult (e.g. being yelled at).
  • Financial – when a caregiver or anyone else uses dishonest methods to obtain money from an older person such as stealing their possessions and then selling them off for cash; taking out loans under false pretenses; forging signatures on cheques; misusing credit cards; making unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts; siphoning off funds through ATM withdrawals by tapping into their ATM card information; forging signatures on cheques made out directly to them rather than deposited into a joint account they share with the victim elder (who may not even be aware such transactions happened until long after they’ve occurred). 

Signs of elder abuse

Elder abuse is a serious problem that can be physical, emotional and financial. It can be committed by family members and friends, strangers and even professionals who are supposed to be helping the person being cared for.

It’s important to know the signs of elder abuse so you can help someone if you suspect they are being abused. Signs include:

  • Physical injuries;
  • Unexplained injuries; or
  • Sudden change in behavior or personality.

How you can help prevent elder abuse

It’s important to understand that elders are not the only ones who need to take responsibility for preventing elder abuse. As a community, we can’t allow our elders to continue to suffer from the hands of the people who are responsible for keeping them safe.

To help prevent elder abuse in your local community:

  • Raise awareness about elder abuse prevention by educating yourself on signs and symptoms and talking with your friends and family about what you’ve learned.
  • Learn more about how you can report instances of suspected elder abuse in your city or province.

We hope this article has helped you understand what elder abuse is, how prevalent it is, and what signs exist to detect it. If you are in the process of the administration of an estate and you believe the deceased to have been a victim of elder abuse, discuss this with an estate lawyer as soon as possible.

Further resources on elder abuse

If you suspect a loved one is a victim of elder abuse, it’s important to speak out. Below we share contact information and resources for victims, friends and family in Ontario:


Ontario Provincial Police


TTY: 1-888-310-1133


Long-Term Care ACTION Line


TTY: 1-800-387-5559

Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority

1-855-ASKRHRA (2757472)

Help Lines

Victim Services Directory

Victim Support Line: 1-888-579-2888

Seniors Safety Line: 1-866-299-1011

Assaulted Women’s Help Line


TTY: 1-866-863-7868



Talk4Healing (for Aboriginal women, in English, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Cree)


Mental Health Helpline


Drug and Alcohol Helpline


Contact the Estate Lawyers at NULaw in Toronto to Resolve Your Will Disputes

If you are thinking about challenging the will of a family member or friend, the estate lawyers at NULaw in Toronto can help. We will help you navigate your options and formulate a pragmatic game plan for moving forward. We will take the time to help you understand your legal rights and will identify any risks and costs that can be anticipated. We also help executors to defend wills against challenges from dissatisfied beneficiaries or would-be beneficiaries.

NULaw and its predecessors have been helping clients in Toronto since 1953. We have extensive knowledge of estate law issues and regularly provide honest and practical legal advice on these matters including all types of will disputes. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.

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