Elder abuse is a serious and growing problem in Ontario. Every year between 2 and 10 per cent of older adults in North America will experience some type of abuse.
Unfortunately, elder abuse often occurs where there is a personal relationship between abuser and the victim and in places where seniors should feel safe, such as long term care homes.
What is Elder Abuse?
The Long Term Care Homes Act  in Ontario outlines a Bill of Rights which sets out the following types of abuse that may apply to older persons who live in long term care homes:
- Emotional Abuse
- Verbal Abuse
- Financial Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
Emotional abuse is any verbal or non-verbal action that undermines a person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.
Examples may include treating an older adult in a humiliating, intimidating, insulting, frightening, or threatening manner.
Financial abuse may involve theft, fraud, extortion, or misusing a power of attorney.
Physical abuse is any act of violence or rough handling that causes physical discomfort or pain, and may include forced confinement. Physical abuse does not include contact appropriate to the provision of care or assisting an older person with activities of daily living, unless the force used is excessive in the circumstances.
Sexual abuse includes any unwanted form of sexual activity as well as any sexual contact with older adults unable to provide consent. Like physical abuse, sexual abuse does not include contact appropriate to the provision of care or assisting the older adult with activities of daily living.
Neglect involves failing to meet the basic needs of an older adult. There are two types of neglect; active/intentional neglect and passive/unintentional neglect.
- Active neglect involves the deliberate withholding of care or the basic necessities of life to an older adult for whom they are caring.
- Passive neglect involves failing to provide proper care to an older adult whether due to lack of knowledge, experience, or ability.
Should I contact police?
While there is no specific crime of “elder abuse” outlined in the Canadian Criminal Code, many forms of elder abuse may constitute crimes. If you are unsure, speak to a lawyer to determine whether police involvement is appropriate.
What can I do if I suspect abuse of an older person?
It can be troubling to discover that a loved one has suffered abuse.
If you have suspicions, it is important that the appropriate documentation is collected and preserved. This may involve obtaining contact information of potential witnesses and taking photographs of physical injuries.
It is also important to keep the following in mind:
- If you believe the person is in serious danger, contact police.
- Respect the person’s rights and reassure them that they are cared for.
- Support and assist the person in reaching out for help.
- Contact a reliable community resource, such as a trusted family member, friend, health-care professional or agency, police, legal services, or a supportive senior’s resource.
- Remain in contact with the person.
It is important to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer if you suspect that either you or your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse. A personal injury lawyer can assist with claims against long term care homes and other caregivers that have caused harm to older persons.
 Long Term Care Homes Act, ss. 3(1)