Warning Signs

Oftentimes when a senior is experiencing abuse there are a number of “warning signs” happening that can signal a potential problem. 

Even though warning signs of abuse may be present in a situation, we have to be careful NOT to jump to any conclusions or make false accusations of abuse. A senior can easily be “at risk” for abuse and neglect, however no actual abuse may be happening. The first step is to educate yourself about abuse, and talk to someone about your concerns.

If you think this is an emergency, please call the police or the senior safety line

Warning Signs In The Senior...

  • A change in a senior’s normal behaviour (withdrawn low self-esteem, no energy, nervousness)
  • A change in a senior’s normal behaviour (withdrawn low self-esteem, no energy, nervousness)
  • Withdrawal from social activities or social contacts (missing church or other regularly attended social events)
  • Change in appearance (dirty or inappropriate clothing, poor hygiene)
  • Suspicious or unexplained injuries (bruises, sprains, welts, burns, broken bones)
  • Untreated medical conditions
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Signs of neglect (little food in the home, being left alone for long periods of time, not having needed assertive devices – glasses, hearing aids, etc.)
  • Unpaid bills or missing property (sudden inability to meet expenses)
  • Changes in financial affairs (bank accounts, power of attorney, transfer of assets)
  • Changes in living arrangements (uninvolved relatives or new friends moving in)
  • Difficulty visiting, calling or contacting the older adult

Warning signs of Abusive Behaviours...

  • Isolates the senior from family and friends
  • Blocks the seniors’ access to receiving phone calls or mail
  • Misuses the senior’s property and/or funds
  • Controls the decision-making process and/or does not respect the seniors wishes
  • Tricking the senior into signing something that they do not understand
  • Threatens to place the senior into an institution
  • Denies the senior access to medical treatment or medical aids
  • Treats the senior like a child
  • Refusing to move out of the older person’s home when asked
  • Sharing the senior’s home without paying a fair share of the expenses
  • Theft, forgery, fraud, or misusing a power of attorney
  • Pressures the senior into giving them money or property
  • Insults, threatens, humiliates, intimidates, bullies
  • Rough handling during care
  • Pushes, shoves, hits, slaps, bites
  • Confines or restrains the senior inappropriately
  • Inadequate provision of food, liquids, clothing or shelter
  • Fails to attend to health and/or personal care needs, such as washing, dressing and bodily functions
  • Fails to provide social companionship, both within the family and with peers
  • Abandons and/or leaves the senior in an unsafe place
  • Persuades the senior to give up control of their finances or sign over their home

Protecting Your Finances / Property

  • Do not lend your bank card or give your PIN number to anyone
  • Use direct deposit for all cheques that you receive, i.e., pension cheques (OAS, CPP)
  • Have bills automatically paid from your bank account such as your telephone or utilities bills
  • Do not sign any documents you do not understand or are under pressure to sign from anyone
  • Do not be guilt-tripped into doing something you are not in agreement with
  • Update Will and Power of Attorney documents yearly or as relationships change
  • Only grant an attorney (Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and/or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care) to a person(s) that you know, trust, and whom you know will respect your wishes
  • Write into your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property instructions regarding when it is to come into effect
  • Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents
  • Read all legal documents carefully, including the fine print
  • Do not lend money without a formal payback schedule, unless it’s a gift
  • Be careful when co-signing loans or signing over ownership of your home
  • Ensure that property/materials which are borrowed are returned
  • Keep your home secure and do not leave valuables or large amounts of cash lying around
  • Be informed about financial affairs

Health and Wellbeing

  • Think carefully before making changes to your living situation such as moving in with family or friends or having someone move into your home, especially if they promise to take care of you
  • Plan for your future while you are still independent and mentally capable. Have a Power of Attorney or a Living Will to express how you want to address your finances and health care decisions to avoid confusion and family problems later
  • Maintain contact with loved ones and connections with friends, family and support networks
  • Stay active in the community – volunteer, go on outings with friends and visit neighbors. Isolation increases vulnerability to abuse
  • Seek alternative options for care, do not only rely only on family members for your care and social life
  • Take control of your own decisions and health care
  • Educate yourself about your rights and the signs to recognize elder abuse
  • Have your own phone and open your own mail
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Become educated about services for seniors, attend local health fairs to ask questions and pick up written materials
  • Report abuse when you see it
  • If you are not satisfied with care services you receive in your home or care facility (improper treatment/yelling), voice the challenges you are encountering

Advocating for Your Rights - Plan and Communicate

  • Which person(s) do you want to make health care/financial decisions for you when you can’t?
  • What kind of medical treatment do you want?
  • How do you want people to treat you?
  • What do you want them to know?
  • Complete your Power of Attorney for Personal Care / Power of Attorney for Property and complete a will – review these documents yearly