Elder abuse: The hidden crime
What can you do if you suspect someone is being abused?
If you are talking to an older person you think is being abused, it is important to give them support and to respect their rights.
Abused people may be embarrassed, afraid, or very private about what is happening to them. They may not be willing to share all the details right away, or at all. But you can still help and support them.
When you talk to a senior you think is being abused:
- ask questions about the situation
- help them find resources that can support them
- make sure they have a way to contact you if they would like to talk about their situation in the future
- respect their opinions and decisions about the abuse
- respect their right not to have more personal information than necessary shared with others
- get their consent before reporting the abuse whenever possible
It might not always be possible to get their consent. For example, the person may not be mentally capable or the abuser may keep the person isolated. In those cases, people can still report the elder abuse, if they do it to protect the victim's rights and interests.
For example, even without the person's consent:
- serious crimes can be reported to the police,
- if the person is likely to be seriously harmed, this can be reported to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, and
- abuse must be reported if the victim lives in a long‑term care home or retirement home. Read more about this in the section called How to report.
When you are talking to an older adult, make sure that you do not make assumptions about what they can or cannot do because of their age. Try to work with them to find a way to deal with the abuse that they are comfortable with.