Elder Abuse: Learn the warning signs and how to report it

Elder Abuse: Learn the warning signs and how to report it

One in six people 60 years and older experience abuse each year. Here is how you can spot the warning signs and take action. 

Elder abuse
Elder abuse /iStock

As people grow older, their health deteriorates, and they might also struggle to take care of their own basic needs. 

This is why most elderly people need a caregiver or are sent to old-age homes. 

But the sad reality is that many elderly people are subjected to abuse, which is often not verbalised or reported. 

This is why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on 15 June 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organisation to raise awareness about the mistreatment the elderly face. 

One in six people 60 years and older experience abuse each year. This is according to the World Health Organisation

READ: Glenwood elderly home receives a massive donation from The Big Favour for repairs

Let's look at the types of abuse that the elderly often experience: 


Abused elderly people might suffer physical abuse that results in bodily injury. For instance, you might see things such as bruises or chafing which could indicate that your loved one is being restrained to a bed or wheelchair or being subjected to physical abuse. 

Sexual – Nonconsensual sexual contact

Elder Abuse Organisation lists the following as a form of sexual abuse against the elderly:

Unwanted touching or other sexual activity. Masturbating in front of an older person.

Making suggestive verbal sexual advances that are unwanted or unwelcome.

Sexual activity with an older adult who does not expressly consent or who does not have the capacity to consent.


Infliction of pain or anguish through verbal or non-verbal attacks is a form of abuse. For instance, making threats to the elderly as a form of manipulation to get them to do what the caregiver wants. Also, denying them their freedom of movement or right to visitors is another form of abuse. 

READ: International Day of Older Persons: Ways to make the elderly feel special

Financial Abuse

Taking money or property from an older person without their knowledge, understanding or consent is a form of abuse. Another sign of financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of funds or assets. 


Elder Abuse Organisation lists the following:

- Withholding of essential food, medicines, or general medical care (such as not taking the person to the doctor) that the older adult cannot perform themselves.

- Failure to provide basic assistance to older person who can not self-perform daily living tasks like bathing, feeding, dressing or going to the bathroom.

- Caregiver neglect implies the identification of a person responsible for the care of a vulnerable older adult and that person’s unwillingness or inability to performing caregiving responsibilities.

How to report abuse of an elderly person 

To stop the abuse from continuing, it is important to inform the relevant authorities. Get in touch with a social worker, report the crime to police or contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

Those found guilty can be fined or imprisoned.

READ: Durban homes for the elderly ready for Covid jab

Image courtesy of Instagram/ Highwaystarz-Photography

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