Compass knows there are some characteristics or factors that older people who experience abuse are likely to share. These factors can be grouped into three categories: Environmental, Personal, and Perpetrator.
Although these are not the cause of abuse, they should be considered as risk factors and can be helpful in understanding who is at greater risk of abuse.
The following describe some of the leading external factors that can contribute to or influence vulnerability to abuse.
The following describe some of the leading personal factors that can contribute to or influence vulnerability to abuse.
The following describe some of the significant factors that contribute to perpetrators abusing older people.
Who commits elder abuse?
A 2021 national survey found that family members are the most likely group of people to commit elder abuse.More information
What to look for: family, friends, carers
Whether you’re a family member, a friend, a neighbour or carer to an older person, it's everybody's business to look out for the older people in our lives.
Discover how you can play your part in helping to stop elder abuse.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up to our eNewsletter to receive updates on the latest content, resources, news and events from Compass – guiding action on elder abuse.More information
What to look for: signs and behaviours
Knowing if an older person is experiencing abuse starts by knowing what to look for. These often present themselves in two forms:
The behaviours or actions as shown by the older person and/or the perpetrator.
Common warning signs
The visual clues often associated with elder abuse.
These behaviours and warning signs may occur across the five types of abuse experienced by older people.
Threats or coercion over assets or wills
Denying someone access to their own money and/or taking control of someone’s finances against their wishes
Abusing Powers of Attorney
The theft of personal items like jewellery, credit cards, cash, food, and other possessions
The unauthorised use of banking and financial documents
Adding a signatory to a bank account
An unexplained disappearance of belongings
An unexplained inability to pay bills
Significant bank withdrawals
Changes to wills
Access to bank accounts or statements is blocked
An accumulation of unpaid bills
An empty fridge
A disparity between living conditions and money
No money to pay for home essentials like food, clothing, and utilities
Name calling, and verbal abuse
Treating the adult like a child
Threatening harm to the adult, other people or pets
Engaging in emotional blackmail such as threatening to withdraw access to grandchildren, family, friends, services or telephone
Threats to place an older person in an aged care facility
Preventing contact with family and friends
Denying access to the phone or computer or withholding mail
Preventing a person from engaging in religious or cultural practices
Moving the person far away family or friends
Any one of the following: resignation, shame, depression, tearfulness, confusion, agitation
Feelings of helplessness
Unexplained paranoia or excessive fear
A change in appetite or sleep patterns, such as insomnia
Unusual passivity or anger
Sadness or grief at the loss of interactions with others
Withdrawal or listlessness due to a lack of visitors
A change to levels of self-esteem
Worry or anxiety after a visit by a specific person/people
Pushing, shoving, or rough handling
Kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, biting, and/or burning
Denying medical treatment
Locking the person in a room or home
Tying the person to a chair or bed
Intentional injury with a weapon or object
Overuse or misuse of medications
Internal or external injuries, including sprains, dislocations and fractures, pressure sores, unexplained bruises or marks on different areas of the body, pain on touching
Broken or healing bones
Lacerations to the mouth, lips, gums, eyes or ears
Missing teeth and/or eye injuries
Evidence of hitting, punching, shaking, pulling, such as bruises, lacerations, choke marks, hair loss or welts
Burns, i.e. rope, cigarettes, matches, iron, and/or hot water
Non-consensual sexual contact, language or exploitative behaviour
Rape and sexual assault
Cleaning or treating the person’s genital area roughly or inappropriately
Enforced nudity of the person against their consent
Unexplained STD or incontinence (bladder or bowel)
Injury and trauma, e.g. scratches, bruises etc. to face, neck, chest, abdomen, thighs or buttocks
Trauma including bleeding around the genitals, chest, rectum or mouth
Torn or bloody underclothing or bedding
Human bite marks
Anxiety around the perpetrator and other psychological symptoms
Failure to provide basic needs, such as food, adequate or clean clothing, heating and medicines
Under- or over-medicating
Exposure to danger or lack of supervision, such as leaving the person in an unsafe place or in isolation
An overly attentive carer in the company of others
A carer denies others the opportunity to provide appropriate care
Complaints of being too cold or too hot
Poor personal hygiene and/or an unkempt appearance
Lack of medical or dental care
Injuries that have not been properly cared for
Absence of required aids
Exposure to unsafe, unhealthy, and/or unsanitary conditions
Unexplained weight loss, dehydration, poor skin integrity, malnutrition