Elder abuse

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Elder abuse is about more than just physical or mental abuse; it also includes neglect, financial exploitation, and sexual abuse.

Elder abuse occurs at home and in healthcare institutions. In a family environment, this means abuse by partners, ex-partners, family members, or friends of the family. This is a form of domestic violence. In healthcare institutions, the abuse is perpetrated by healthcare professionals.

This abuse might be intentional, but that is not always the case. In certain circumstances, people may no longer be able to care for their loved ones (informal care) or clients informal care. And this could cause their behaviour to worsen  and manifest in irresponsible care.

Recognizing elder abuse is not easy. Elder abuse is not only about neglect or verbal or physical violence, it also includes financially abusing the elderly.

Signs in the elderly person

What does the elderly person look like?

  • She/he is more drowsy or lethargic (due to improper use of medication)
  • Has (untreated) wounds, for instance due to lying in bed too much
  • (Suddenly) has poor hygiene, such as dirty hair or uncared for teeth
  • Looks tired, loses weight, or is ill for a long time
  • She/he is undernourished, often hungry, or faints
  • She/he is dehydrated, very thirsty, often suffers from headaches, or rarely passes water
  • Has bruises, scratches, cuts, or scars

How does the elderly person interact with other people?

  • She/he is afraid of certain places or people
  • No longer wants to be touched
  • Looks away when you try to make eye contact

Which situations does the elderly person encounter?

  • Often has the doors locked
  • Has inexplicable debts or rent arrears
  • Cannot explain withdrawals from bank account
  • Valuable items disappear from home
  • Suddenly amends his or her last will and testament
  • It is difficult to speak with him or her in private

How has the elderly person’s behaviour changed?

  • Has more difficulty focusing on a task or conversation than she/he normally does
  • She/he is afraid, angry, confused, or depressed for no obvious reason
  • She/he is (suddenly) too lively or too quiet
  • Believes himself/herself to be worthless and says negative things about himself/herself or others
  • Acts as if nothing is wrong

Signs in the perpetrator

How does the perpetrator treat the elderly person’s feelings?

  • Ignores the elderly person or does not comfort the elderly person
  • Threatens the elderly person
  • Calls the elderly person names or shouts at the elderly person
  • Humiliates the elderly person or treats the elderly person like a small child
  • Keeps the elderly person at home wherever possible or does not allow any visitors
  • Does not involve the elderly person in decisions about the elderly person’s life

How does the perpetrator physically treat the elderly person?

  • Neglects the elderly person
  • Keeps the elderly person quiet with (a wrong dose of) medication
  • Touches the elderly person in a rough manner
  • Hits, kicks, or pushes the elderly person
  • Locks the elderly person up

How does the perpetrator treat the elderly person’s belongings?

  • Keeps (financial) mail addressed to the elderly person for himself/herself
  • Shows a lot of interest in the elderly person’s belongings
  • Does not want to talk about the elderly person’s financial situation
  • Steals the elderly person’s belongings
  • Wants to be paid for helping the elderly person

How does the perpetrator interact with other people?

  • Keeps doctors and other healthcare professionals away from the elderly person
  • Goes against the advice from doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Always visits different doctors and hospitals
  • Refuses medical or mental assistance for the elderly person

How does the perpetrator feel?

  • Says that she/he cannot manage looking after the elderly person
  • Complains about the elderly person
  • Looks tired
  • Complains about headache, stress, or lack of sleep
  • Acts as if she/he does not care about the elderly person
  • Says negative things about himself/herself, others, or the world

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