What is Elder Abuse?

By 3 November 2022Elder Abuse
Elder standing beside window

Elder Abuse is when an individual who classifies as an elder is abused by another party causing harm to the elder. Commonly, the offender may be an individual who is close to the elder or whom the elder relies for core support or accommodation. An offender is either a relative (spouses, children, niece/nephew, or often grandchildren), a caregiver, neighbours, etc.

Commonly Elder Abuse may take the form of:

  • Financial Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Clinical Abuse

The abuse occurs when the abuser imposes their will upon the victim and because of their vulnerability due to age, disability, or fear of retribution, they are forced to comply.[1]

Who is an Elder?

An elder is a person who by reason of a disability he/she has in advanced age, mental or physical impairment or are otherwise “vulnerable”.[2]


A person may be a “vulnerable elder” if the elder has a physical, mental, psychological, or psychiatric disability to the extent that the person is wholly or partially unable to:

  • Defend themselves against physical, mental, emotional or psychological abuse;
  • Defend themselves against exploitation;
  • Understand the nature and effect of their decisions;
  • Make decisions freely and voluntarily;
  • Communicate decisions;
  • Report abuse;
  • Be reasonably mobile in their freedom of personal movement; or
  • Otherwise be frail in body or mind or have a short life expectancy.


An elder with disability is a person who experience:[3]

  • Impaired cognitive ability;
  • Dependence upon the offender or an associate of the offender including emotional, financial and psychological dependence;
  • A position of power or authority over the victim by the offender;
  • Social isolation; or
  • Any other matter the Court considers which contributes to the vulnerability of the victim/elder.

Have you Witnessed Elder Abuse?

If you are experiencing or have witnessed Elder Abuse and need help or Non-Legal advice, we suggest you contact the National Elder Abuse phone line – 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) – which will direct you to the helpline in your state or territory.

If however you think the problem is already at the stage where you need legal help and advice, involving making wills, power of attorney or guardianship documents, or your finances are being handled by someone you no longer trust, or you have similar problems which may require legal action, then please contact us, Elderlaw Legal Services.

Our Elderlaw solicitors are skilled in matters in relation to Elder Abuse and are ready to assist with the legal problems associated with Elder Abuse.

[1] NSW Interagency Protocol for responding to abuse of older people

[2] Taking Action Against Abuse of Older People: Pathways Out of the Maze; a seminar convened by the Education Centre Against Violence [ECAV] and NSW health on 26 June 2013, at Milsons Point, from a paper presented by Rodney Lewis, at p.5

[3] Elder Abuse: How well does the law in Queensland cope? A joint paper of the Office of Public Advocate (Qld) and the Queensland Law Society, June 2010, p.3

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