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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Elder abuse & neglect

Te whakamanioro pēperekōu


Seek help if you, or someone you know is being abused or neglected. You can get help through your general practice team or by phoning the 24-hour helpline 0800-EA-NOT-OK (0800-32-668-65). This is a free helpline for anyone who is a victim of elder abuse or neglect, or those who suspect elder abuse or neglect.

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, phone 111 for the police.

Abuse is never OK, and neither is feeling scared in any place or with any people where you should feel safe.

Elder abuse is when an older person experiences harm or distress. Harm can happen in different ways, such as physical (hitting or lashing out) or psychological (emotional) abuse. It can also include financial abuse, sexual abuse, cultural abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse can be a single or repeated act, or it can be lack of appropriate action. It occurs within a relationship in which there should be trust and this trust is abused.

It often involves abusive behaviour or violence, but it can also be subtle, and the older person may not realise they're being abused.

It can happen in an older person's home, a carer's home, in residential care or in a healthcare setting.

The abuser is often known to the person and may be a partner, whānau (family) member, friend, carer or health worker.

There are over 2200 cases of suspected elder abuse each year. It's estimated that three-quarters of cases of elder abuse go unreported. Older people may not report abuse due to fear, guilt, shame or concerns about privacy, particularly if the abuser is a whānau member. Older people with memory issues are particularly vulnerable and unlikely to report abuse.

Getting help for abuse

If you're feeling scared or being abused, there are many people available to help you.

The first thing to do is to tell someone. This can be hard. Sometimes it's easier to tell someone you do not know.

You could tell a friend, health professional, the police or a support person. You can call the elder abuse 24-hour helpline EA NOT OK (0800-32-668-65) or Family Violence Information Line on 0800‑456‑450.

Signs of abuse

Signs that suggest you or an elderly person you care about is in a situation of abuse include:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2022.


Page reference: 136031

Review key: HIELA-136031