Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse
 Nelius Stackpoole
Nelius Stackpoole

14 Jun 2017

In Ireland, domestic abuse is still a major problem.

But one type that’s often overlooked, is also one of the most insidious.

Elder Abuse.

Older people who suffer abuse by their adult children, or other people.

According to a 2014 report by the HSE Elder Abuse Service

  • 83% happened in the victim’s home
  • 7% in a private nursing home
  • 4% in a relative’s home
  • 4% in public continuing care.

But what is Elder Abuse?

 ''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 or violates their human and civil rights.'' 

The age beyond which abuse can be considered Elder Abuse, is generally 65.

Psychological Abuse

Elder abuse can include emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.

Financial Abuse

Often unreported, Financial abuse can include theft; fraud; exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance, or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Physical Abuse

Forms of Elder physical abuse can include slapping, pushing, hitting, kicking, misuse of medication, inappropriate restraint (including physical and chemical restraint) or sanctions.


Sometimes Elder Abuse can involve simple neglect - ignoring medical or physical care needs and withholding life necessities, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.

Sexual Abuse

One of the most distressing forms; Elder sexual abuse can include rape and sexual assault or acts to which the older adult has not consented, or could not consent, or with which he or she was compelled to consent.

Institutional Abuse

Elder abuse isn’t confined just to the home. It may include poor care standards in Institutions –a lack of positive responses to complex needs, rigid routines, inadequate staffing, and poor staff knowledge of patients or their needs. 

Following a 2014 research report that could be broken down as:

  • Psychological abuse - 29%
  • Financial abuse -        21%
  • Self-neglect -        21%
  • Neglect -                 15%
  • Physical abuse -     12%
  • Sexual abuse -        1%
  • Discrimination -      1%

“Over 10,000 people over 65 in Ireland, experience abuse and neglect in a 12-month period” report on the ‘Abuse and Neglect of Older People in Ireland’ 

A Red C poll in 2016 found that:

  • Physical abuse of vulnerable adults has been witnessed/suspected by 1 in 3 adults.
  • Over 1 in 3 of those surveyed has experienced or someone close to them has experienced emotional abuse.
  • There is significant public concern about the need to safeguard those who are limited in their ability to protect themselves.
  • There is a lack of clarity over where to report vulnerable adult maltreatment, particularly among the young. 

Elder Abuse, unlike some other types, is open to a wide range of potential abusers. These include relatives and family members, professional staff, paid care workers, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and associates.

The 2014 ‘Open Your Eyes’ report found that of the alleged abusers…

“49% were adult children.

19% were a partner/ husband or wife.

15% were an ‘other’ relative.

8% were a neighbour/friend.

5% were related to landlord/lodger.

4% were carer/staff.” 

How to recognise if an Older Person is being abused?

Thankfully, most older people do not experience abuse.

However, an older person can be harmed or abused in many ways.

An older person may also experience more than one form of abuse at any given time.

The chart below shows possible indicators of elder abuse.

^ Report of the Working Group on Elder Abuse, September (2002)

What do you do, if you suspect someone is suffering from elder abuse?

Well, in an emergency, where the person is at immediate risk, you should contact the Gardaí or emergency services on 999 or 112.

If you’re concerned about a person you suspect might be a victim of elder abuse, tell someone.

You can contact the HSE Elder Abuse Service, your GP, Public Health Nurse, local Health Centre or An Garda Síochána.

The HSE has dedicated Safeguarding and Protection Teams in place all over the country to take reports of elder abuse and provide help.


For a list of Senior Case Workers in your area and their contact details,

HSE Information Line - Open Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm

  • Call Save: 1850 24 1850
  • The Senior Helpline is a national confidential telephone helpline for older people, provided by trained older volunteers. You can also contact the Senior Helpline at the number below:
  • LoCall: 1850 440 444 - 7 days a week- 10am –10pm

“If we witness domestic violence

but choose to walk away;

we leave another victim behind.

We’re not just bystanders.

We’re witnesses.”



Remember, if you suspect someone is being abused - before you get

involved, ask yourself if it’s safe and legal to intervene. 


If the situation is already violent or looks like its escalating quickly, don’t

directly intervene. Call the Gardaí on 999.


The only effective bystander intervention is a non-violent one.

If you see or suspect domestic abuse, visit whatwouldyoudo.ie or call 999.

Spin South West supporting Cosc


A message from Cosc and the Dormant Account Fund supported by SPIN South West