Elder Abuse is Wrong: Physical Abuse

"Like Father, Like Son?"

Sam slams the door in a rage as he leaves his father's house. This time he's really fed up with Abe's insults! His hands are shaking as he grips the steering wheel in the car. Abe's been telling him he's no good ever since he was a kid. Sam doesn't know how many times Abe slapped him over the smallest of things—breaking a dish, losing a hammer, failing a test. Now, it seems everyone expects him to do Abe's errands. Well, there's no way he's doing that! If they knew the real Abe, they'd see that the old guy is quite able to look after himself!

Today, though, Sam knows he really lost it. They'd started to argue again and Abe came after him swinging his arms for a fight. Sam couldn't stop himself—he slammed the old man up against the kitchen cupboards. It's not the first time this has happened; but this time, he just left Abe there on the floor, yelling that he'd broken his leg. What if Abe calls the police? In a way, it would be a relief. He needs to talk to someone: he can't stand feeling the remorse and the anger at the same time. Sure, he feels guilty; but isn't Abe also responsible? There must be someone who can understand why they get like this.

What does it look like?

Physical abuse is the deliberate use of force against a person without that person's consent. It can cause physical pain, injury, or impairment. This includes:

  • Pushing or shoving
  • Hitting, slapping or kicking
  • Pinching or punching
  • Biting
  • Burning
  • Throwing an object at you
  • Misusing physical restraints
  • Confining you to one place or room.

All of these acts are crimes in Canada. Physical abuse includes the deliberate overmedication or under medication of an older person.

What can I do?

If you are being physically abused, you may need to leave the situation or your home. You can start by going to a safe place, like your neighbour's or a friend's place, a business or a shelter. Consider reporting the abuse to the police or call 9-1-1.

Stress and Abuse

Family stress sometimes leads to elder abuse. A spouse's health can deteriorate, leading to stress and change. Adult children juggling multiple family and work demands can become short-tempered. They can overlook their parents' changing physical and emotional needs.

The presence of depression, alcoholism or drug abuse can also lead to abusive behaviours or neglect. An existing family history of abuse can intensify as a parent or older family member becomes more dependent.

If you are in this situation—or know someone who is—talk to a social worker or someone you trust. Help is available for families going through hard times.

If you've been injured, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. For emergencies, go to the hospital.

Some other things you can do are:

  • Talk to someone you trust
  • See a social worker or counsellor
  • See your doctor or visit a medical clinic
  • Call your local help or crisis line
  • Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you think you're getting the wrong amount of medication
  • See the police to get a criminal order (or "peace bond") to keep the abuser away from you.

You may want to see a lawyer or victim service provider to get a civil protection order (restraining order or emergency protection order). These are legal tools that can help to have the abuser removed from the family home or kept away from you.

If you are thinking of leaving

If you are being abused, it is important to think first about your safety. You also need to think of the safety of any children or other dependent relatives living with you.

You may fear that your family and friends will not support you if you leave. They may have fixed ideas of what's right for older adults. They may not like your decision. But even so, it still may be better for you and for those who depend on you to leave rather than to continue to be abused.

In an emergency, call 9-1-1
Or call your local police.

Try to leave the situation. If you can, attract attention by screaming.

If there is violence …
Be sure to protect yourself or anyone who depends on you.

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