Te whakamanioro pēperekōu Elder abuse and neglect

Elder abuse is when an older person experiences harm or distress. Harm can happen in different ways, such as physical (hitting or lashing out) or emotional (psychological) abuse. It can also include financial abuse, sexual abuse, cultural abuse and neglect.

Reporting elder abuse or neglect

How often elder abuse happens

There are over 2,200 cases of elder abuse each year. It is estimated that 75% of cases of elder abuse go unreported.

Older people may not report abuse due to fear, guilt, shame or concerns about privacy — particularly if the abuser is a whānau member.

Older people with memory issues are particularly vulnerable and unlikely to report abuse.

Types of elder abuse

Elder abuse can be a single or repeated act, or it can be lack of appropriate action. It occurs within a relationship in which there should be trust and this trust is abused.

It often involves abusive behaviour or violence. But it can also be subtle, and the older person may not realise they are being abused.

It can happen in an older person's home, a carer's home, in residential care or in a healthcare setting.

The abuser is often known to the person and may be a partner, whānau (family) member, friend, carer or health worker.

Signs of elder abuse

Signs that suggest you or an elderly person you care about is in a situation of abuse include:

  • feelings of being afraid of a carer or a carer being overly controlling or protective
  • appearing tense or afraid when in the company of the carer
  • appearing passive, confused or ashamed
  • increasing worry, low mood, irritability, loss of interest in life, social withdrawal, loss of appetite or insomnia
  • signs of physical harm, such as unexplained injuries or bruises
  • signs of neglect, such as poor hygiene, weight loss or inappropriate or falling-apart clothing
  • access to medication being restricted or controlled
  • access to the telephone, mobility aids or continence products being restricted
  • access to other whānau members being limited or restricted
  • complaints of being left alone for long periods
  • financial problems or reluctance to make a will, which suggest someone is taking advantage of their assets — this might include another person taking bank cards away and using them.

Getting help for elder abuse

If you are feeling scared or being abused, there are many people available to help you.

The first thing to do is to tell someone. This can be hard. Sometimes it is easier to tell someone you do not know.

You could tell a friend, health professional, the police or a support person. You can call either the:

Related websites

Age Concern

Information about elder abuse and where to get support.

Te Tari Kaumātua Office for Seniors

Learn about elder abuse, including types of abuse and how to identify it.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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