Mistreatment of Older Adults

Marie Beaulieu, Roxane Leboeuf, Caroline Pelletier
with de collaboration of Julien Cadieux Genesse
Université de Sherbrooke

Key messages

  • Mistreatment of older adults involves a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older adult, whether or not the perpetrator deliberately intends to cause harm. It affects older adults living at home, in residential facilities, or in any other type of living environment. 
  • Two forms of older adult mistreatment have been defined in Québec: violence and neglect. Mistreatment may be physical, sexual, psychological, material, or financial. It can also be organizational, manifest itself as age-based discrimination (ageism), or involve violation of rights.
  • Mistreatment of older adults is a complex multifactorial problem, which is part of relational dynamics that go beyond the victim-perpetrator relationship per se, because the problem is influenced by social, political, and cultural factors, as well as factors associated with older adults themselves, the people who mistreat them, and the environment in which the mistreatment occurs.
  • Mistreatment can have an immediate short- to long-term impact on the overall well-being of older adults. It can also affect their family and friends, as well their neighbours and living environment. Since older adult mistreatment is a social problem, it also has general long-term effects on society. However, these effects are poorly understood, not well documented and not always easy to detect.
  • Preventing mistreatment of older adults involves actions aimed at reducing at-risk situations for seniors and their family and friends, promoting positive attitudes toward older people, and raising awareness. In particular, it involves actions to inform and educate the general public about the risk factors for mistreatment (e.g. ageist attitudes) and about best practices for reducing the risk that such situations will arise (e.g. promoting well-treatment).
  • In Québec, the fight against mistreatment is based primarily on the measures contained in the Governmental Action Plan to Counter Mistreatment of Older Adults 2017-2022.