Risk factors

There is no typical profile for a mistreated older adult or a person who mistreates. Anyone might be a victim of mistreatment or mistreat another person at some point. However, some factors make a person more vulnerable to predispose to a situation of mistreatment.

Factors associated with the mistreated older adult

Factors specific to older adults make some of them more likely to be a target of mistreatment. There are 2 types of factors: risk factors and vulnerability factors. 

The main risk factors, which are related to the older adult’s environment, are:

  • Living with one or more relatives
  • Conflicts with family members or friends
  • Inaccessibility of resources
  • Social isolation and limited social network
  • Financial dependence in a context of immigration and sponsorship
  • The older adult and the person who mistreates share the same home
  • Tension in the relationship between the older adult and the person providing assistance

The main vulnerability factors, which are related to the person’s characteristics, are:

  • Advanced age
  • Being a woman
  • Illiteracy
  • Lack of knowledge of the official languages (French and English)
  • Personal characteristics that can predispose them to prejudice (e.g., odours, appearance)
  • Disruptive or violent behaviour toward caregivers and carers (e.g., aggressiveness, resistance to care, wandering)
  • Substance dependence (e.g., alcohol, drugs, medication)
  • Financial difficulties or dependence on others to manage personal affairs (e.g., budgeting, paying bills)
  • Dependence for basic care (e.g., feeding, hygiene, medication)
  • Difficulty or inability to express oneself, submissive attitude, excessive reliance on others
  • Mental or physical health problems, cognitive impairment, behavioural or emotional difficulties (e.g., dementia, impaired memory, impaired orientation, aggressiveness, depression)
  • Social and geographical isolation
  • Lack of knowledge of rights and available resources
  • Distrust of public services (e.g., health and social services, police)

Factors associated with the person who mistreates

The person who mistreates may be the older adult’s son or daughter, spouse, caregiver, friend or neighbour.

People who mistreat also have specific characteristics that make them more likely to be abusive.

The main risk factors and vulnerability factors for people who mistreat are:

  • History of family violence
  • Dependency problems (e.g., alcohol, drugs, compulsive gambling)
  • Mental or physical health problems
  • Personal problems related to work, financial or family difficulties
  • Financial dependence on the older adult
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of support
  • Main caregiver
  • Imposed caregiver role
  • Lack of knowledge about diagnoses and care
  • Stress and exhaustion from caregiving, which feels like a burden

The presence of these factors does not always lead to mistreatment.