Is it abuse?

Older adults have the right to live safely and manage their own affairs. When someone violates those rights and causes harm, that's abuse. Often the abuser is someone in a position of trust, like a family member, friend, or caregiver.

Abuse can take many forms.

  • It is financial abuse if somebody tricks, threatens, or persuades older adults out of their money, property, or possessions.

  • It is emotional abuse if somebody threatens, insults, intimidates, or humiliates an older adult, treats the person like a child, or does not allow them to see their family and friends.

  • It is a violation of rights and freedoms if somebody interferes with an older adult's ability to make choices, especially when those choices are protected under the law. Examples include interfering with spiritual practices or traditions, withholding mail or information, dictating how someone else can spend their own money, or keeping someone in an institution without a legitimate reason.

  • It is neglect if somebody fails to provide the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, a safe shelter, medical attention, personal care, and necessary supervision. Neglect may be intentional or unintentional. Sometimes the people providing care do not have the necessary knowledge, experience, or ability.

  • It is sexual abuse if somebody forces an older adult to engage in sexual activity. This may include verbal or suggestive behaviour, not respecting personal privacy, sexual touching, or sex without the person's consent.

  • It is physical abuse if somebody hits an older adult or handles the person roughly, even if there is no injury. Giving a person too much or too little medication, or physically restraining a person, are also forms of physical abuse.

Impolite behaviour or rudeness is not abuse. Arguments and conflicts are not abuse either. If both people have power in the relationship and can make choices about what happens next, then it is not an abusive situation.

If an older adult tells you they are being abused or hurt, believe them!

Privacy Terms Crown copyright © 2012, Province of Nova Scotia. Updated: 2013-04-07