Any physical pain or injury that is willfully inflicted upon a person or unreasonable confinement or punishment, resulting in physical harm, is abuse. Physical abuse includes: hitting, slapping, pinching, pushing, burning, pulling hair, shaking, physical restraint, physical coercion, forced feeding or withholding physical necessities.
Sexual abuse is understood as contact resulting from threats or force or the inability of a person to give consent. It includes, but is not limited to: assault; rape; sexual harassment; intercourse without consent; fondling a confused senior; intimately touching a senior during bathing; exposing oneself to others; inappropriate sexual comments; or any sexual activity that occurs when one or both parties cannot, or do not, consent.
The most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse, often refers to the theft or misuse of money or property like household goods, clothes or jewelry. It can also include withholding funds and/or fraud.
Psychological (Emotional) Abuse
The willful infliction of mental anguish or the provocation of fear of violence or isolation is known as psychological or emotional abuse. Forms of psychological abuse include a number of behaviors, for example: name-calling; yelling; ignoring the person; scolding or shouting; insults; threats; provoking fear, intimidation or humiliation; infantalization; emotional deprivation; isolation; and removal of decision-making power.
Neglect can be intentional (active) or unintentional (passive) and occurs when a person who has care or custody of a dependent senior fails to meet his/her needs. Forms of neglect include: withholding or inadequate provision of physical requirements, such as food, housing, medicine, clothing or physical aids; inadequate hygiene; inadequate supervision/safety precautions; withholding medical services, including medications; overmedicating; allowing a senior to live in unsanitary or poorly heated conditions; denying access to necessary services (e.g. homemaking, nursing, social work, etc.) or denial of a senior’s basic rights. For a variety of reasons, seniors themselves may fail to provide adequate care for their own needs and this form of abuse is called self-neglect.
Other Forms of Abuse
Systemic Abuse – Our society, and the systems that develop within it, can generate, permit or perpetuate elder abuse. Most prevalent is discrimination against seniors, due to their age and often combined with any of these additional factors: gender, race, colour, language, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, or geographic location.
Examples of Non-Abuse
Not all situations that may be of concern to a senior’s family, friends or caregivers are considered elder abuse. Seniors choosing to give money, gifts or excessive attention to a much younger member of the opposite sex is not abuse. Nor is a well-to-do senior choosing to live in ‘sparse’ conditions.