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Mistreatment of older adults and vulnerable people

The mistreatment of older adults and vulnerable people can happen anywhere.

Very often, this phenomenon is kept quiet, so it’s difficult to say how widespread it might be. In Canada, it’s estimated that 4-7% of seniors are being mistreated.

Do you think you’re being mistreated, or are you concerned about what’s happening to an older person you know? You can get help.


How to recognize mistreatment?

Mistreatment is 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 the person deliberately wants to cause harm or not.

It is a complex social issue that takes many different forms.

Psychological mistreatment 
For example: manipulation, humiliation, insults, threats, excessive monitoring, social isolation.

Physical mistreatment 
For example: shoving, hitting, force feeding, refusing to provide assistance, improper medication administration (not following the prescribed doses or frequency, etc.).

Sexual mistreatment 
For example: suggestive remarks or attitudes, jokes with a sexual connotation, failure to provide privacy, forced promiscuity.

Material or financial mistreatment 
For example: pressuring the person to change a will, doing banking transactions without the person’s consent, failing to assess the person’s understanding of their financial situation.

Organizational mistreatment 
For example: poorly trained staff, providing services that do not meet the person’s needs.

For example: infantilization, scorn, indifference, ageist remarks.

Violation of rights 
For example: imposing medical treatment, failure to inform the person about their rights, denying the right to choose, vote, privacy, practice one’s religion.

Couple personnes agées

How to help a person who is being mistreated?

  • Spend time with the older person who is being mistreated and listen to what they have to say, without judging. Offer to help them, if that’s what they want. 
  • Tell them that there are resources and help available, and that these services are confidential. 
  • It’s normal for a person who is being mistreated to feel sad, angry, hopeless, afraid, or humiliated. Be understanding and let them know that you’re there for them. 
  • You can call the Elder Mistreatment Helpline or your CLSC for advice. Mistreatment is a complicated issue that’s difficult for relatives and witnesses to process. It’s only natural to ask for help. 
  • Don’t hesitate to call 911 if the person is in danger.


The positive effect of well-treatment

Certain behaviours, including well-treatment, can help to prevent mistreatment. Well-treatment is a way of being, acting, and speaking that puts the needs and expectations of seniors first. People in vulnerable situations, especially those experiencing a loss of autonomy, are particularly in need of well-treatment, since they have more trouble expressing their needs and wants.

Well-treatment is not a gesture meant solely to prevent mistreatment. It’s a genuine belief system centred on the well-being of the person.

It is also built upon dignity, personal fulfilment, self-esteem, inclusion, and personal security. It is expressed through gestures, attitudes, actions, and practices that respect the values, culture, beliefs, life experiences, uniqueness, and rights and freedoms of the elderly person.

How can we demonstrate well-treatment toward a vulnerable loved one in our day-to-day lives? Often through simple gestures.

Ask them their opinion; don’t make assumptions about what they want. 
For example: Draping a blanket over their shoulders without asking first, because you assume they’re cold.

Give them the opportunity to make choices. 
For example: Think about their interests and preferences.

Respect their dignity. 
For example: Protect their privacy when providing care.

Encourage them to participate in social activities
For example: Suggest interesting and stimulating activities that play to their strengths.


Where to get help

If you think you’re being mistreated or if you witness a case of mistreatment, you can contact the Elder Mistreatment Helpline, a free, confidential, and bilingual service available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week.

Depending on the situation, the following resources can also provide help.

911To report an emergency or imminent danger. Available 24/7.
811To ask a healthcare professional or social worker for advice if the situation does not require immediate assistance. Available 24/7.
211To access the social and community resources of the greater Montréal area. 
More than 5,000 organizations providing services in 200 languages. 
Available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 days a week.
CLSC intake, analysis, orientation, and referral (IAOR) serviceTo access social or psychological services at your local CLSC. Available Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., by phone. Short-term follow-up (2-3 meetings) may be provided depending on the issue.  
Find your CLSC
suicide.caFor anyone who needs information or advice because they are thinking about suicide or worried about someone else. Available 24/7.
Commissariats aux plaintes et à la qualité des services

For anyone who needs information or advice because they are thinking about suicide or worried about someone else. Available 24/7.

CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest  
CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre 
CISSS de la Montérégie-Est


Resources for residents of the territory covered by the CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest

Counter elder abuse in the Vallée-du-Haut-St-LaurentReferrals to local resources aimed at countering elder abuse.
Grand Rassemblement des aînés de Vaudreuil et SoulangesServices intended to combat isolation and foster and maintain a sense of empowerment in seniors aged 50 and over, through information, support, and accompaniment services.


Resources for LGBTQ+ communities


1 888 505-1010

For anyone interested in or concerned by sexual orientation and gender identity. Free, confidential, and professional services available in English and French. Available 24/7.
Fondation ÉmergenceTools to better promote diversity, including through the Aging Gayfully program.


Resources for cultural communities

Dépliant La maltraitance, ça nous concerne tous



Themed videos:

Produced by the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal


To learn more

For more information, visit the Québec government’s page on the mistreatment of older adults and vulnerable people.

For more information, you can contact:

Julie Després 
Regional coordinator specialized in the fight against mistreatment, Montérégie region 
450-462-5120, poste 16042