Preventing Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults

This publication is for anyone who wants to be informed about preventing abuse and neglect of older adults on PEI, Canada.

This publication gives:

  • Information about abuse and neglect.
  • Tips for preventing abuse and neglect.
  • Information about support services and resources.
  • Prevention Tips

    Prevention Tips for You

    • Plan for your future while you are still healthy and independent. Make a power of attorney, will, and healthcare directive.
    • Keep your home secure.
    • Stay involved with your community and friends.
    • Ask for help when you need it.
    • Check the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website for previous and current scams:
    • Register your phone number on Canada’s Do Not Call List to prevent being scammed by unknown callers:
    • Get a phone with caller ID and don’t answer calls from unknown callers.

    Prevention Tips for Families and Caregivers

    • Help your aging family member or friend by staying informed. Read Community Legal Information’s publications on wills, power of attorney, and healthcare directives.
    • Make decisions that are respectful and considerate of the older adult.
    • Do a safety check of the home. Is the house/ entrance/ bathroom accessible? Are there things to trip on?
    • Be honest with yourself about what you can do. Get help when you need it.
    • Be prepared for caregiver stress and plan for respite care.
    • Learn about community resources available for older adults.
    • For more information, see Elder Abuse Awareness by clicking here
  • What is abuse and neglect of older adults?

    Many families experience abuse or violence at home. Abuse is any action or inaction that harms a person’s health and well-being. Abuse of older adults is sometimes called elder abuse or senior abuse.

    An older adult can be abused by:

    • A family member or friend.
    • A paid caregiver.
    • A romantic partner.
    • Someone they rely on for basic needs.
    • Staff in hospitals or group residential settings, such as community care facilities, private and public nursing homes, or seniors housing.
    • Someone in a position of trust.
    • A stranger pretending to be a person of authority – for example, scam callers.

    Abuse can happen to older adults who are:

    • Competent and able to make decisions for themselves. Competent means able to understand financial or legal matters and make informed legal or financial decisions.
    • Incompetent. Incompetent means unable to understand financial or legal matters and make informed legal or financial decisions.

    Abuse can be a crime. For example, assault and theft are crimes.

  • What are the types of abuse?

    The abuse may be one incident. The abuse may be several small incidents that, if seen alone, might not be considered abuse.

    • Physical abuse includes:
    • Assaulting someone (slapping, pushing, hitting, or kicking).
    • Forcing someone to stay in a room, bed, or chair.
    • Causing physical pain.
    • Handling roughly.

    Sexual abuse includes:

    • Making unwanted sexual comments or jokes.
    • Watching or recording someone for a sexual purpose without consent.
    • Unwanted sexual contact, from touching to intercourse.
    • Forced or coerced sexual contact in a relationship or marriage.

    Financial abuse includes:

    • Forcing someone to sell property or possessions.
    • Pressuring someone to buy things for others.
    • Stealing money, cheques, or possessions.
    • Using debit or credit cards without permission.
    • Fraud or forgery.
    • Misusing a power of attorney.
    • Misusing a joint bank account.

    Scams can be:

    • Internet messages asking for personal information.
    • Internet messages that appear to be from someone you know, but are really from a scammer.
    • Phone calls asking for financial or personal information.
    • Phone calls demanding that you pay money or go to jail.
    • Phone calls from someone pretending to be a family member or friend needing emergency help.
    • Someone coming to the door and offering to do house repairs for cash.
    • Investment offers that promise high returns.

    For more information about, or to report, previous and current scams, go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

    Emotional and psychological abuse includes:

    • Yelling, name calling, intimidating, humiliating, insulting, frightening, threatening, or ignoring.
    • Treating an older person like a child.
      Withholding visits from children or grandchildren.
    • Bullying in a seniors residence, club or organization.
    • Mocking, belittling, or otherwise disrespecting someone’s spiritual beliefs or cultural heritage.

    Neglect is:

    • Failing to provide a safe, clean living environment with appropriate food, heat, clothing, medication, and other necessary supplies.
    • Intentionally failing to ensure a dependent person has companionship, social interaction, intellectual stimulation or other things they need.

    Self-neglect is when a person refuses, delays, or is unable to arrange for their own care. People suffering from self-neglect can also suffer from mental or physical illnesses.

    Signs of self-neglect:

    • Lack of personal care and hygiene
    • Unsafe or unclean living conditions
      Drug abuse
    • Refusal to take medications

    Dating violence can affect anyone. You are in an abusive relationship if someone you are dating:

    • Tries to control what you do and where you go.
    • Keeps you from spending time with friends and family.
    • Puts you down and calls you names.
    • Slaps or pushes you around.
    • Forces you to have sex.
    • Threatens to kill themselves if you leave them.


  • Who are the victims of abuse?

    Abuse and neglect can happen to anyone. It can happen no matter your:

    • Age
    • Income
    • Cultural background
    • Gender

    It can happen to people who live:

    • Alone
    • With family
    • In a community care facility or nursing home


  • What are the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect?

    Signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect:

    • Depression, fear, anxiety, or lethargy
    • Unexplained physical injuries
    • Weight change
    • Dehydration
    • Fear of a caregiver
    • Low self-esteem
    • Untreated medical problems
    • Anxiety or agitation
    • Inappropriate clothing or clothing in disrepair
    • Poor hygiene, rashes, or pressure sores
    • Over-sedation
    • No explanation for missing money or personal items (including jewellery, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures)

    Take these signs seriously, even if there are other explanations.

    The older adult may not show any of these signs or symptoms. If you suspect something is wrong, it is a good idea to investigate further.

  • Why does abuse happen?

    Factors in abuse by a family member:

    • A period of high stress
    • Substance abuse
    • Mental health problems
    • Reduced income
    • Reduced mobility
    • The death of a loved one

    Sometimes, abuse by a family member may be:

    • Part of a cycle of violence.
    • A way of getting even with someone who used to be abusive.

    Factors in abuse by staff in nursing homes, hospitals, group homes or community care facilities:

    • Lack of training
    • Low pay
    • Over-work
    • Understaffing
    • Frustration
    • Poor health
    • Lack of supervision and mentoring
    • Personal problems that affect the way staff provides services to older people in their care

    Sometimes, the abuser may not understand that the way they are treating the older person is abusive.

    There is no excuse for abuse! The personal circumstances of the caregiver or family member is not an excuse.

    If you are a caregiver and feel overly stressed, call Home Care and Support for help.

    • West Prince: 902-859-8730
    • East Prince: 902-888-8440
    • Queens: 902-368-4790
    • Kings (Souris): 902-687-7096
    • Kings (Montague): 902-838-0786

    The Alzheimer’s Society has helpful services and programs.

    • 902-628-2257 or 1-866-628-2257

    The Seniors Safe @ Home Program in Charlottetown can visit an individual’s home and recommend household safety measures. For example, installing grab bars and safety rails.


  • Why is abuse often not reported?

    Abuse can be a crime. For example, assault and theft are crimes.

    Some victims of abuse don’t report abuse because they:

    • Are afraid of the abuser.
    • Are afraid of what will happen to the abuser.
    • Don’t think anyone will believe them.
    • Have low self-esteem and feel responsible for the abuse.
    • Are dependent on the person.
    • Experience language or cultural barriers that make it hard to report abuse or access services.
    • Are afraid they will be put in an institution or forced to leave their home.
    • Don’t think that anyone could help them.
    • Are ashamed to tell anyone that a family member is abusing them.
    • Are afraid of being shunned by the rest of the family.
    • Are afraid of being denied access to the grandchildren.

    Sometimes family or friends don’t report abuse because they:

    • Don’t know who to call.
    • Fear the abuse may get worse if they say anything.
    • Are afraid they will have to take over the care of the older person.
    • Don’t want to interfere or get involved.
    • Don’t know if the abuse is a crime.
    • Fear they will damage relationships with other family members.
    • Are asked by the older person not to report it.
    • Aren’t sure if abuse is occurring.

    Service providers may not report the abuse because they:

    • Are afraid of the abuser.

    Service providers may not report the abuse because they:

    • Fear breaching confidentiality.
    • Don’t know if the abuse is a crime.
    • Think the older person won’t be able to testify in court.
    • Think the older person would deny the abuse is happening.
    • Are asked by the older person not to report it.
    • Are afraid of the abuser.
    • Older adults have the same rights as other people. Services are available to support them.


  • Is there a law that protects older adults?

    Older adults have the same rights as other people.

    There is also an Adult Protection Act and Adult Protection program that protects vulnerable adults. A vulnerable adult is someone who is not competent.

    People are encouraged to report the abuse of vulnerable adults. The identity of the person reporting the abuse is kept confidential under the Act.

    You are required to report abuse if you are a professional with a duty of care to vulnerable adults. This includes:

    • Physicians
    • Nurses
    • Pharmacists
    • Social workers
    • Mental health professionals

    The Adult Protection Act and the Adult Protection Program only apply to vulnerable adults. Adults who are not considered vulnerable adults can access other services. On page 21 there is a list of helpful services and their contact information.

  • What do victims of abuse need?

    Victims need the abuse and neglect to stop.

    They may also need:

    • Safety
    • Shelter
    • Intervention services
    • Access to financial resources
    • Help with personal care so they are not dependent on the abuser
    • Emotional support and counselling
    • Information about the law and the criminal justice system
    • Information about what could happen to their abuser
  • In cases of self-neglect, can I force someone to get help?

    In cases of self-neglect, seniors may be living in situations that are unhealthy and dangerous. This can be upsetting to someone who cares about them.

    If a senior is competent and not putting others in danger, they have the right to choose:

    • How they live.
    • If they want help or not.


  • How do I report abuse to the police?

    To report a crime, call the police.

    When you call the police, the person who answers the phone will take information to give to the police. The police may ask for your telephone number and name so that they can get more information from you in the future.

    The police can investigate the report. The investigation may include:

    • A detailed signed statement from the victim.
    • Statements from neighbours, family members, or service providers who saw or heard evidence of the abuse.
    • Statements from anyone who knows about previous abuse.
    • Photos of any injuries.
    • A medical report.
    • Other relevant evidence.

    If you want to stay anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

  • Where can I get help?

    Tell someone if:

    • You have been abused.
    • If you think someone else is being abused.

    If the abuse is in a facility, talk to the management.

    PEI Family Violence Prevention Services provides confidential support and information to victims of family and relationship violence.

    The PEI Friendly Visitor Program provides friendship and companionship to Island seniors who may be at risk of becoming socially isolated. Friendly Visitor volunteers are kind, caring individuals over the age of 50. They spend about an hour a week with a senior friend who is at risk of becoming socially isolated. This program is offered by the Seniors Federation.

    Chief Mary Bernard Memorial Women’s Shelter is a shelter on Lennox Island for women in distress, women without housing, and young mothers who need extra support. Shelter residents have access to employment services, parenting and life skills programs, and the Lennox Island Health Centre. Indigenous and non-Indigenous women are welcome.

    Contact Adult Protection (Home Care and Support) if a vulnerable adult is unable to protect themselves from abuse and/or neglect. Adult Protection is a confidential service. They provide information and they will intervene if it is in the best interest of the adult. Anyone can make a confidential referral to Adult Protection.

    PEI Rape & Sexual Assault Centre (PEIRSAC) provides free counselling and support for survivors of sexual violence, including adult survivors of child sexual abuse. This service is confidential.

    PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada (PEIANC) offers a range of programs, services, and resources to newcomers. The association helps newcomers integrate into Canadian and Island society, provides settlement and employment services, and assists in a number of other different areas.

    If you think you are the victim of a crime, you may wish to report the crime to the police or RCMP. You can also report a crime if you witness a crime.