Prevent men’s violence against women

Elder Abuse

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What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is abusive behaviour in a relationship with an an older person. It can include financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse, as well as controlling behaviours like social isolation or gaslighting. It can also include intentional and unintentional neglect [1].

Older people with a disability or who need assistance with daily tasks are often targets for perpetrators of elder abuse [2].

The World Health Organisation defines an elder abuse as “a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” The abuser may be a son, daughter, grandchild, partner, other family member, friend or paid carer.

Elders in Australia can be classified into three categories:

  • Those living in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Those living at home with the support of carers
  • Those living at home with extended family members.

The older person may be dependent on the abuser, for example relying on the abuser for care. It is also common for the abuser to depend on the support of the older person such as for financial support or accommodation.

Examples of elder abuse

  • frightening someone by threatening to hurt a pet or break belongings
  • intimidating, humiliating, or harassing a person
  • threatening to evict someone or put them in a nursing home
  • stopping a person from seeing family or friends
  • denying someone the right to make their own decisions
  • pension skimming
  • selling someone’s belongings without permission
  • misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by taking money or property improperly
  • forcing a person to change their will
  • denying someone access or control of their own funds
  • not allowing services to help someone
  • neglecting a person’s physical, medical or emotional needs
  • slapping, hitting, pushing or restraining
  • making unwanted sexual approaches or behaving indecently. [3]

Signs that someone is experiencing elder abuse

The signs of elder abuse can be difficult to detect as they could be mistaken for signs associated with illness or ageing. The following are signs that may indicate an older person is experiencing abuse:

  • Large withdrawals from the bank and/or changes to wills
  • Unexplained disappearance of belongings
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Social isolation
  • Injuries that have not been cared for
  • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Internal or external injuries
  • Unexplained Sexually Transmitted Dieseases or incontinence
  • Anxiety around the perpetrator.

The Elder Abuse Helpline has more information on signs of elder abuse and perpetrator behaviours.

Elder abuse and men’s violence against women

Elder abuse is a violation of trust. Perpetrators include paid carers, however the abuse is often committed by a family member of the older person [4]. There is limited evidence available on the extent and nature of elder abuse, however available data indicates that women experience elder abuse more often than men [5].



[1] See the World Health Organisation for more information:
[2] Australian Law Reform Commission (2018) Elder Abuse: A National Legal Response. Available from:
[3] Queensland Government (2016) What is elder abuse. Available from:
[4] Australian Law Reform Commission (2018) Elder Abuse: A National Legal Response. Available from:
[5] Australian Law Reform Commission (2018) Elder Abuse: A National Legal Response. Available from:

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