Elder abuse

What is elder abuse?

Abuse can take place in any situation and any person is at risk. A vulnerable person is someone who may be restricted in capacity to guard themselves against harm or exploitation or to report such harm or exploitation.

Abuse can be perpetrated (carried out) by a range of people, such as strangers, institutions, or family members. It may happen when an older person or a person with a disability lives alone or with a relative. It may also happen in residential or day-care settings, in hospitals, home support services and other places assumed to be safe, or in public places.

Elder abuse is the abuse of someone aged 65 or over and it happens in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Elder abuse can be a single or repeated act, or a lack of action, which causes harm or distress to the older person, or that violates their human and civil rights.

Find information on recognising the signs of child abuse, and the protection of vulnerable children, in our page Child abuse and child protection.

Types of elder abuse

There are different types of elder abuse. It can be deliberate, or it can be caused by a lack of knowledge, or omission of care (neglect). An older person may experience more than one form of abuse at any given time.

Types of elder abuse
Types of abuse Description
Psychological abuse Emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks
Physical abuse Slapping, pushing, hitting, kicking, misuse of medication, inappropriate restraint (including physical and chemical restraint) or sanctions
Financial or material abuse Theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance, or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits
Neglect Self-neglect and acts of omission including ignoring medical or physical care needs, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating
Discriminatory abuse Ageism, racism, sexism, abuse based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment
Institutional abuse Poor standards of care, rigid routines, inadequate responses to complex needs occurring in residential care, nursing homes, acute hospitals, and in-patient settings
Sexual abuse Rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the older adult has not consented, or could not consent, or into which they were forced to consent

You can also watch a video from Safeguarding Ireland that explains the different types of abuse and what you can do about it.

Reporting a concern

Safeguarding is about putting measures in place to help people who might be at risk to protect themselves from harm or abuse. The HSE has Safeguarding and Protection Teams in every region of the country. These teams are responsible for adult safeguarding within services for older people and services for people with disabilities. Contact your nearest HSE Safeguarding and Protection Team if you, or someone you know, is a victim of abuse.

Alternatively, contact your local health centre, your GP, public health nurse or the Garda Síochana and talk to someone about what has been happening.

You can also contact the HSE Information Line on 1800 700 700. Or, if confidentiality is required, phone the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

In an emergency, where a person is at immediate risk, you should contact the Garda Síochana or Emergency Services on 999 or 112.

Further information

Safeguarding Ireland was established by the HSE to raise awareness of and tackle abuse of vulnerable adults. Safeguarding Ireland has videos that explain safeguarding, responding to abuse and preventing abuse.

You can visit the HSE website for information on how to protect yourself or protect someone else you are concerned about (pdf).

The HSE has a series of short films called ‘Open Your Eyes to Elder Abuse in Your Community’ that you can watch online and a booklet (pdf) on elder abuse.

Banking and Payments Federation Ireland has published a Guide to Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future (pdf). It has information to help older people recognise the signs of elder financial abuse and keep control of their affairs.

You can get more information on help and support services available from the HSE Information Line (see below).

Health Service Executive

National Information Line
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm, Saturday, 9am-5pm. Sundays and Bank Holidays closed.
Locall: 1800 700 700
Page edited: 27 October 2023