Types of Elder Abuse

There are several different types of elder abuse:

Physical Abuse: Any act of violence or rough treatment causing injury or physical discomfort. Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse and medication abuse.

Physical abuse may include:

  • Any kind of physical assault such as slapping, pushing, pinching, choking, kicking, punching, burning, or injuring with an object or a weapon
  • It also includes deliberate exposure to severe weather and unnecessary physical restraint
  • Force feeding
  • Rough handling
  • Sexual abuse such as sexual assault or harassment
  • Medication abuse, such as withholding prescriptions over overmedicating


Psychological or Emotional Abuse: Any act that may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, or self-worth of an individual.

Psychological abuse may include:

  • Name calling, yelling, insulting, ridiculing, swearing
  • Threatening abandonment, poverty, withdrawal of love, or institutionalization
  • Intimidating, frightening, humiliating, infantilizing (treating like a child)
  • Isolation, silent treatment
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Excluding from decision making or meaningful events


Financial or Material Abuse: Theft or misuse of a senior’s money or property.

Financial abuse may include:

  • Theft of money or possession
  • Forging a senior’s signature on cheques or other documents
  • Misusing power of attorney
  • Use of a senior’s money or possessions without authorization
  • Unduly influencing a senior to change his/her will
  • Sale of home or possessions without senior’s consent or legal authority


Neglect: The failure to meet the needs of an older adult who cannot meet these needs on his/her own. Neglect may have physical, psychological, and/or financial components, and be:

Active: Intentional withholding of basic necessities and/or care;


Passive: Non-intentional, non-malicious withholding of basic necessities and/or care because of lack of experience, information, or ability

Neglect may include:

  • Failure to provide necessary provisions such as food, water, heat, adequate housing, clothing
  • Failure to provide recommended health aids or equipment
  • Lack of attention to needed medical or social assessment treatments
  • Inattention to safety precautions, including the need for supervision
  • Abandonment



Note: A senior’s neglect may also be self-neglect meaning the older person is living in an unsafe or unhealthy manner by choice or ignorance. While this may be distressing to see, it must be remembered that a competent person, of any age, has the right to make choices about their lifestyle and to live at risk if he/she is not a danger to others. However, if you have any concerns about a senior not having the means and supports to access basic necessities or if you feel a senior does not understand the implications and risks of his/her lifestyle, it is suggested that you contact your Regional Health Authority.