Who Commits Elder Abuse and Why?

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been a victim of Elder Abuse in the past or has questions around the topic:

What is Elder Abuse? Definitions & Meanings
Who Commits Elder Abuse & Why?
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Elder Abuse?
Handling & Dealing with Elder Abuse
How to Report Elder Abuse (and Who to Report it to)
How can Elder Abuse be Prevented?
Elder Abuse Data & Statistics
Elder Abuse Helplines, Support & Further Reading


Sadly elder abuse affects millions of people every year, causing elderly people to suffer from serious injuries and even death. Unfortunately, the victims of this awful crime are vulnerable and are often dependent on people to look after them, however, this situation can lead to abuse. So who are the abusers & why do they commit elder abuse? We will look at the answers to these questions & more in this guide.

Why does Elder Abuse happen and what causes it?

There may be many reasons why this happens and there will be various factors that will contribute to this awful crime.  For example, the elderly person may belong to a family of hostile and non-nurturing family, this will be reflected by the way they interact with the elderly individual. Another factor will be a dependency, in most cases, the elderly person will have become dependent on family and friends both physically and mentally, and this can set the stage for abuse. Some caregivers may be stressed by the high demands of care and few resources of support leading to abuse.

Other factors can include addictions in the caregivers causing an inability to cope, and of course, there will be situations where the carers are taking advantage of their position and want some financial gain. Whatever the reason, whether the abuse is intentional or not, it is not acceptable and should never be tolerated.

What places and scenarios is Elder Abuse more prominent?

According to the World Health Organisation, up to 2 in 3 care home staff admit to committing some kind of abuse. However elder abuse is not limited to care home settings, there are of course situations where family members act as live-in carers and this has also led to abuse.

By encouraging and supporting elderly individuals to make their own decisions you are increasing their self-confidence. Similarly, elderly adults will feel valued when they are treated with courtesy and respect. High self-esteem and confidence will help the adult to speak up if they have concerns surrounding their care. Person-centred care is very important as it gives the individual power to control and choose how they are cared for, reducing the risk of abuse. Person-centred care can be encouraged by ensuring adults are actively involved in their care planning and not just a recipient of care.

Who commits Elder Abuse and why?

Unfortunately often, the people who commit the abuse are people in a position of trust, exploiting a unique relationship. They may be;

  • A partner, child or relative
  • Friend
  • A paid volunteer or care worker
  • A health and social worker or other professional
  • Someone the older person cares for

Sadly when it comes to elder abuse, anybody who is entrusted with looking after the individual is capable of abusing them.

Is there a type of person or personality more likely to commit Elder Abuse?

Unfortunately, anyone can commit elder abuse, it is a choice that an individual makes. We can try to look for factors that may contribute to this choice but it’s only fair that abusers are held accountable for their actions, they had a choice, a choice not to cause harm or suffering to another person. However, most elder abuse is committed by the people who were supposed to be caring for the individual. It is therefore important to remember that anybody who is responsible for the care of the elderly individual is capable of abusing them.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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