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Social abuse

As people age, they might find that their social and other connections decrease and, if they begin to lose mental or physical capacity, they’re not able to visit friends or family as easily as before. Often this can lead to a smaller network of connections outside of the home. When this happens, it can be difficult to find ways in which to maintain these connections.

Sometimes in these situations a family member or relative might begin limiting the older person’s connections even further. They might begin to cut the older person off from family, relatives, friends or community. This is called social abuse.

The aim of the perpetrator of social abuse is to isolate an older person so that they don’t have contact with anyone else except the perpetrator.

Some people, who have experienced social abuse, say that it can happen slowly over a period of time. At first it might seem as though the perpetrator is being caring and kind. For example, the perpetrator might drive the older person everywhere, including visiting other family members or attending medical appointments. From this the social abuse can escalate to more control over who the older person sees or with whom they have contact.

The perpetrator might attempt to harm the older person’s reputation or relationships by speaking ill of the older person. For example, saying that the older person is becoming forgetful when they’re not.

Social abuse can leave the older person anxious and distressed at not being able to have contact with other people. It can lead to mental or physical illnesses.

Ways in which the perpetrator can be socially abusive to an older person:

  • Stopping contact with other family, relatives or friends
  • Withholding mail
  • Not allowing the older person to answer the phone
  • Removing communication devices such as personal alarms, or mobile phones
  • Stopping the practice of religious or cultural practices
  • Living in and taking control of an older person’s home
A year ago, George, who is 82 years old and lives alone in the family home, agreed that his son, Petro, could live with him...
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If you, or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, help is available through our confidential helpline on 1300 368 821. If it is an emergency, call 000.
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