Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Common Barriers to Disclosure

  • isolation of the older adult (e.g., infrequent contact with health-care providers or community supports);
  • not wanting to turn against the person abusing or neglecting;
  • reluctance to talk about “private family matters”;
  • feeling of shame or embarrassment;
  • relationship with person who is abusing or neglecting (e.g., love, protection, fear of loss of contact);
  • dependent on person who is abusing or neglecting for care/housing;
  • low socioeconomic status (i.e., economic insecurity or dependence);
  • concern about reprisal of family (e.g., shunning, denied access to grandchildren);
  • concern about retribution from staff (including withdrawal of assistance) if abuse occurs in an institution;
  • pressure not to speak out from religious, social or cultural community;
  • difficulty speaking up or explaining abuse (e.g., cognitive challenges, language difficulties, aphasia);
  • acceptance of abuse due to lifetime exposure to abuse;
  • fear or mistrust of “authorities” (e.g., fear of being removed from the home, abuser being arrested, having to move to a long-term care facility);
  • immigration issues (e.g., fear of being deported if sponsor is reported for abuse);
  • gender related issues (e.g., less economic or social power, older men not taken seriously or ashamed to admit abuse); and
  • past negative experiences with health-care providers when disclosing abuse.
Older Adults
Preventing and Addressing Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults: Person-Centred, Collaborative, System-Wide Approaches
Point of Care Resources