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Nova Scotia Seniors: Elder Abuse

Posted Jul 11, 2017

Did you know that only one in five cases of elder abuse comes to the attention of those who can help?

Read on to learn about what exactly is elder abuse and what you can do about it.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse can take on many forms, here are some of the warning signs to look out for:

Physical abuse:
Assault, battery and inappropriate restraint causing bodily harm.

Look for:

Physically: Sprains, broken bones, bruises, traumatic hair and tooth loss.

Bruising can of course be caused by other factors but the following are usually never accidental: bilateral bruising to the arms (grabbed or restrained), wrap-around bruises to limbs (sign of restraints), multi coloured bruises (happened over time).

Behaviours such as: implausible explanations for injuries, stories of victim and caregiver do not match, history of going from hospital to hospital (in order to avoid detection of a pattern of abuse), delay between injury and medical visit.

Sexual Abuse:
Unwanted sexual contact of any kind.

Look for:
Physically: Bilateral bruising of the inner thighs, trouble sitting or walking, torn or bloody under clothes, sexually transmitted diseases.

Behaviours: Inappropriate sexual role playing between victim and caregiver, unusual sexual behaviours or aggression.

Domestic violence:
Violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Look for:
Same signs as physical and sexual abuse plus the frequency and the severity can increase. The abuser’s anger intensifies until brutalizing the victim and then they become overly polite and/or apologetic.

Psychological / Emotional Abuse:
Inflicting emotional anguish by threatening, humiliating verbally or non-verbally.

Look for:
Behaviours: Problems sleeping, depression, confusion, shying away from caregiver, agitation, emotionally upset, unresponsive, can exhibit signs of dementia such as rocking & biting.

Financial Abuse:
Illegal use of the elder’s money, home or resources.

Look for:
Unpaid bills, cut-off notices from utilities, unusual activity ie: withdrawals or transfers from the bank account that the victim cannot explain, legal documents changed such as Power of Attorney, Will, etc., items missing from the home, victim’s care does not correlate with the amount of savings he/she is supposed to have, suspicious signatures on cheques and documents with no plausible explanations for the financial arrangements made on behalf of the victim.

Neglect (or self neglect):
The failure of the caregiver, whether it be someone else or the senior themselves, to administer proper care and look after essential requirements.

Look for:
Home: Absence of necessities such as food, water, heat, insufficient space or ventilation, insect infestation, medications not up to date or kept up, safety concerns with housing – faulty wiring, state of disrepair, substandard cleanliness.

Physical: Poor personal hygiene, bedsores, rashes, soiled clothing, dehydration, untreated conditions such as infections, soiled bandages, missing devices such as walkers, glasses, dentures, hearing aids and worsening chronic conditions regardless of medical plan.

Behaviors: Signs of distress such as crying or despair, difficulty sleeping, unexplained loss of appetite, confusion (often a sign of malnutrition), emotionally withdrawn, self destructive, fearful of caregiver.


If you suspect that elder abuse may be happening to you, a loved one, or someone you know the best step is to take action but contacting APS (Adult Protective Services) to investigate these cases.