old man sitting on bedIt is important to consider family abuse from two perspectives: abuse that is perpetrated deliberately, and abuse that is not. This is particularly true when we consider neglect because one form of neglect can be intentional and one passive i.e. the ‘perpetrator’ is doing his or her best but cannot provide the level of care and support that is needed, sometimes because they don’t know what care support is available and sometimes because the local authority does not provide the support that is needed. From the perspective of the older ‘victim’ of course the impact is the same, and they experience abuse.

Although we recognise the intense stress that can be involved in providing personal care to a family member, very often this will have a detrimental impact on the carer themselves rather than necessarily manifest as elder abuse.

We believe it is important to consider family dynamics in abuse because of the psychological pressure that this can cause to the older victim. The assumption (or the assessment) that an older person is making an informed decision, or an unwise decision, can be dubious at best if there is a coercive or dependent family relationship, or if an older person feels obligations toward children, siblings or others.

What are the signs of Family Abuse? 

Where abuse is intentional it is likely that the following signs will be apparent:

  • The older person may not be allowed to speak for themselves, or see others, without the presence of the family member (suspected abuser) being present
  • They may display attitudes of indifference or anger toward the older person, or the obvious absence of assistanceyoung and old woman
  • a Family member may blame the elder person (e.g. accusation that incontinence is a deliberate act)
  • They may display aggressive behaviour (threats, insults, harassment) toward the older person
  • They may have a previous history of abuse of others
  • They may display inappropriate affection toward the older person
  • They may display flirtatious behaviour, or coyness, etc that might be possible indicators of inappropriate sexual relationships
  • They may create social isolation of the family, or isolation or restriction of activity of the older person
  • There may be conflicting accounts of incidents by family, supporters, or the older person
  • They may display inappropriate or unwarranted defensiveness
  • There may be indications of unusual confinement (closed off in a room; tied to furniture; change in routine activity)
  • There may be the obvious absence of assistance, or attendance 

If you suspect family neglect or abuse

There is a difference between a chosen pattern of behaviour by an individual, and actions by others that cause a deterioration in an older person’s circumstances and condition. If you have concerns about this you can call us on our helpline, or contact the appropriate protective service in your nation. (see England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)