Preventing Elder Abuse in Alberta, Together

June 15, 2023

June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Bringing light to this issue and how it can be prevented is an important topic for our communities. Unfortunately, elder abuse is prevalent not only in Alberta but across the world. According to the World Health Foundation, 1 in 6 people over the age of 60 are victims of elder abuse.

Elder abuse is defined as a single or repeated intentional or reckless act or lack of appropriate action which causes harm or distress to an elderly person. Different types of elder abuse occur; it isn’t just limited to physical abuse.

Together, we can help prevent this crime from occurring. We are sharing some ways to recognize the signs of elder abuse and resources for those experiencing it.

Who is at Risk of Elder Abuse?

Seniors are particularly at risk of being abused; however, there are certain factors that increase their risk.

Elder abuse is often impacted by the mental and physical conditions of both the abuser and the victim. This type of abuse can be committed by a variety of people, however, it is most often family members, and caregivers who abuse elderly individuals. Some common factors that increase the risk of elder abuse include:

  • Cognitive impairment: Elderly individuals with cognitive impairment, such as dementia, are more vulnerable to abuse as they may not be able to understand what is happening or communicate their needs effectively.
  • Dependency: Seniors who are dependent on others for their care are at higher risk of abuse as they may not be able to speak out or remove themselves from an abusive situation.
  • Social isolation: Isolated individuals may be more vulnerable to abuse as they may not have a support system or someone to turn to for help.
  • Caregiver stress: Caregivers who are stressed or overwhelmed may be more likely to exhibit abusive behaviour towards the elderly person in their care.
  • Substance abuse: Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol may be more likely to engage in abusive behaviour toward seniors in their lives.

Types of Elder Abuse and the Warning Signs

Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse go unreported and unnoticed, leaving older adults vulnerable and helpless. It is important to be aware of the different types of abuse and to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse to protect our elderly loved ones. Because there are different types of abuse, there are different warning signs that we should be aware of to prevent harm to seniors.

Physical signs

Physical abuse is any use of physical force against an older adult that causes harm or injury. You can recognize the signs of physical abuse by looking out for:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, or scars
  • Broken bones or sprains
  • Burns or blisters
  • Injuries that occur repeatedly or appear to have a pattern
  • Signs of restraint, such as marks on the wrists or ankles
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Medication errors or overdoses

Behavioural Signs

Behavioural abuse is any action or behaviour that causes an older adult emotional pain or distress. The signs of behavioural abuse can include the following:

  • Unexplained changes in mood or behaviour
  • Fear or anxiety around certain individuals
  • Withdrawn or isolated
  • Depressed or unresponsive
  • Unexplained agitation or anger
  • Sudden loss of interest in activities, events or hobbies
  • Unwillingness to speak freely

Financial signs

Financial abuse is the illegal or unauthorized use of an older adult's funds or property. Financial abuse can be recognized by observing the following signs:

  • Unexplained or sudden changes in financial accounts
  • Unpaid bills or utilities being shut off
  • Unexpected changes to legal documents, such as a will or power of attorney
  • Missing property or valuables
  • Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or credit cards
  • Forged signatures on checks or other financial documents
  • Attempts to control or manipulate the older adult's finances
  • Pressure to change the older adult's financial decisions


Neglect is the intentional or unintentional failure to provide basic necessities or care for an elderly individual.

Examples of neglect can include:

  • Not provided with a safe place to live
  • Denied social interactions
  • Failing to provide proper personal hygiene or clean clothing
  • Failing to provide food
  • Failing to provide resources like hearing aids, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, etc.
  • Failing to prevent physical harm
  • Abandonment or desertion

If you suspect an older adult is experiencing abuse, reporting it to the proper authorities is important. You can contact adult protective services in your area or local law enforcement. Recognizing the warning signs of elder abuse is the first step in protecting our elderly loved ones.

Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse

Whether you are experiencing abuse or someone you know may be being abused, we can take action together to prevent elder abuse.

Leave the situation if there is immediate danger

Go to a safe place, such as a neighbour’s, friend’s or relative’s. You can also go to a business. If you are calling a helpline, you can ask to be taken to a shelter. If you are unable to leave your home, call 911 immediately.

Confide in someone you trust

By telling someone you trust about what is happening, they may be able to help you escape the abuse. Someone you trust could be a friend or family member, public health or social worker, home care worker or someone at your place of worship.

Keep a record of the abuse

Keep a daily record of what is happening to you. This will help others assist you if you need it.

Take legal action

A court protection order could help stop the abusive person from contacting you. Your local police service or victim services can give you information on how to take legal action.

Do not blame yourself

No one deserves to be abused, it is not your fault, and you are entitled to seek help.

Report abuse

Elder abuse is never acceptable and, in many cases, illegal. If you or someone you know is being abused, report it to the police.

Elder Abuse Resources

There are multiple resources available for seniors to access throughout Alberta if they are experiencing abuse. Here are just some of the organizations that can be contacted.

  • Family Violence Info Line - Phone: 310-1818
  • Calgary Elder Abuse Resource Line - Phone: 403-705-3250
  • Edmonton Seniors Abuse Help Line - Phone: 780-454-8888
  • Red Deer Helping Elder Abuse Reduction (H.E.A.R.) Resource Information Line - Phone: 403-346-6076 or 1-877-454-2580
  • Strathcona County Elder Abuse Line - Phone: 780-464-7233

More resources for those experiencing elder abuse can be found here.

Elder Abuse Resources

Elder abuse is a prevalent issue worldwide, including here in rural Alberta, with 1 in 6 people over 60 years old becoming victims. Different types of elder abuse exist, with various warning signs. Recognizing the warning signs of elder abuse is the first step in protecting our elderly loved ones.

Seniors who are dependent, isolated, and with cognitive impairments are most at risk, as well as those with caregivers who are stressed, overwhelmed, or engage in substance abuse. It is essential to report any suspected abuse to adult protective services or local law enforcement. To prevent elder abuse, we must create awareness and educate people about the different types of abuse and their warning signs. It is crucial to ensure that our elderly loved ones receive the care they need and deserve. We must be vigilant, stay informed, and speak out to prevent elder abuse from happening in our communities.