What can I do if an older adult is being abused?

3. Talk to the person you think is being abused

When an is being abused, they need support. Often, the first step is to help them to be less isolated.

You can help the person by talking to them, visiting them regularly, and keeping in touch by phone.

It's helpful if you know what options you have and where you can find more information to help the older adult. See Step 4.

Safety issues

Contact the police by calling 911 if someone is hurt or being threatened, or if there are immediate safety issues.

Call your local police station if it's not an emergency, but you're concerned about the person's safety.

If the person is not in danger right now, you can help them make a so they'll be prepared if something does happen.

Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario has a guide to help you do this. A shelter, the police, or a victim services worker might also be able to help develop a safety plan.

Don't confront or accuse the abuser. They may take it out on the person you're trying to help. If the abuser knows that the person is planning to stop the abuse, they may further isolate the person or take them away from friends and family that support them.

Talk about the abuse

Talking about abuse is always difficult.

But it helps to:

  • let the person know that you understand that they're in a very difficult situation, and
  • reassure them they're not alone.

Try to choose the right time to talk to them, for example, when it's just the two of you, and no one will bother you or hear the conversation.

You can also:

  • respect the person's privacy, confidentiality, and their choice of what to do next
  • believe them and keep in mind that you may be the first person they've talked to about the abuse
  • listen, be patient, and do your best to give emotional support
  • ask them questions like:
    • Do you feel safe?
    • Is anyone hurting you?
    • What do you want to do?
    • How can I help?
  • encourage them to talk to other people, especially a counsellor or support group
  • help them connect to services and organizations that can give them support

It's important to always ask the person for permission before doing anything for them.

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