Abuse of an older person "is any act occurring within a relationship where there is an implication of trust, which results in harm to an older person. Abuse may be physical, sexual, financial, psychological, social and/ or neglect." (1)

The definition helps us clearly understand the nature and types of abuse being experienced by older people. Abuse is carried out by someone close to them, with whom they have a relationship implying trust, and may include family members eg son, daughter, spouse, brother, grandchild, niece or friend.

Also note that any staff member, regardless of position held, may behave or act in an abusive manner. If you suspect a colleague or any other staff member is abusing older people, talk to your supervisor or contact the Department of Social Services Complaints Investigations Scheme (1800 550 552) and seek advice. Click here to be taken to Aged Care Complaints Scheme

A range of factors can contribute to elder abuse. Abuse of an older person:-

  • can happen to anyone regardless of gender, where people live, cultural or religious background or income
  • is a breach of a person's rights. Some of these breaches may be criminal or civil offences
  • can be complex due to the relationships involved, the possibility of more than one form of abuse occurring at the same time, or more than one alleged abuser

(1) Australian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse Working Definition (1999).

Contact Aged Rights Advocacy Service, 16 Hutt St, Adelaide.