Protecting older people and adults with a disability from abuse
Last published 27 Jul 2020
Everyone has the right to feel safe and be treated with dignity and respect in their own home and community.
It is not OK to abuse, neglect or exploit anyone, especially vulnerable people, such as an older person or an adult with disability.
If you or someone you know is being abused, neglected or exploited, then you need to know what you can do.
What is abuse?
There are many types of abuse experienced by vulnerable adults.
Some examples of abuse are:
Financial abuse is threatening to take someone’s money or assets, misusing another person’s money without permission, or stealing and abusing power for financial gain.
Psychological abuse is threatening, controlling or coercive, pressuring or intimidating someone verbally, or emotional blackmail. This also includes threatening to isolate someone from friends and family.
Physical abuse is intentionally pushing, shoving, kicking or injuring someone else. This includes physically restraining or locking someone up in their home.
Sexual abuse is having non-consensual contact with someone, including sexual contact. This could be enforcing nudity, or inappropriate washing or handling.
What is neglect?
Neglect is a type of abuse that means a vulnerable person’s basic needs are not being met. This could be not providing adequate food, clothing or shelter, not keeping someone safe, or refusing to meet a vulnerable person’s healthcare needs. Neglect is also deliberately denying a vulnerable person help, which leaves them exposed to physical, mental and emotional harm; this is known as wilful neglect.
What is exploitation?
The most common type of exploitation is financial. This means someone takes money, assets or allowances from a vulnerable person for their own use and without permission. Exploitation can also be someone who sells, transfers or changes property titles without the property owner knowing.
It is illegal to use or sell another person’s assets without their consent, especially someone vulnerable like an older person or an adult with disability.
What are the signs of abuse or neglect or exploitation?
You may have noticed an older person or adult with a disability:
- is being told how to spend their money
- is unable to explain bruises, cuts or injuries on their body
- is unable to speak freely with you at appointments, especially when another person is present
- indicated that a family member, friend or someone they know in the community had hit, threatened or sexually abused them.
If you see any of these signs, you need to act.
What to do if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, neglect or exploitation
If it’s not an emergency, you can contact the Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221 (Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm.
By contacting the helpline, you can:
- get information on what services are available to help
- speak with a trained professional about your concerns, and your rights
- be supported to make a report and be heard without judgement.
You do not have to supply your name and can remain anonymous.