Elder Abuse and Neglect

HealthPathways SA: New pathway to support general practitioners and other health professionals identify potential cases of elder abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse is wilful or unintentional harm caused to an older person by another person with whom they have a relationship of trust. Around 1 in 20 older Australians experience abuse from someone they know and trust, however this often remains hidden.

The majority of perpetrators of abuse towards older people (80 to 90%) in Australia are close family members. Elder abuse can include:

  • Physical abuse (being hit, restrained inappropriately, physically injured on purpose)
  • Emotional and/or verbal abuse (intimidation, threats, lack of emotional support)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect (not providing care, food, clothing)
  • Financial abuse (theft, pressure or coercion in connection with wills or inheritance, inappropriate use of funds)
  • Substance (or chemical) abuse (misuse of drugs or alcohol, withholding or overdosing of prescription medication)

Carer or family illness or stress is a frequent causative factor for elder abuse, whilst not a justification it may indicate inadequate support for either the person or the carer. It is often a "call for help" especially when caring for someone with dementia. Older people with dementia, those with complex medical or physical disabilities, and those who have difficulty communicating may be more vulnerable to abuse.

Cultural background, values, and beliefs may affect the way elder abuse appears, how it may be perceived, and how elder abuse should be responded to.

HealthPathways SA supports general practitioners and other health professionals identify potential cases of elder abuse and neglect through the following new pathway and associated referral pages:

The Elder Abuse and Neglect pathway includes information on:

  • Assessment of risk factors and alert features
  • Patient screening questions to help identify alert features
  • Behavioural signs from the patient and the person perpetrating abuse
  • Management and referral information

The SA Health Adult Safeguarding Unit can also provide advice and support for older people experiencing any form of abuse, as well as their family, carers and health professionals who are involved in their care. The Unit can be contacted on 1300‑372‑310 (weekdays, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm) for information, support, or to make a report.

Access to HealthPathways SA is free to health professionals, for access to the site click here.

HealthPathways SA is a partnership between Wellbeing SA, Adelaide PHN and Country SA PHN.

Become Involved with pathway development and provide feedback

Health professionals wanting to be involved in HealthPathways SA can do so in a variety of ways:

  • Be involved in the development of a newly created clinical pathway by working collaboratively with the HealthPathways SA clinical team.
  • Provide feedback - HealthPathways are dynamic and your feedback is essential to maintain currency. If you would like to provide feedback, there is a feedback button on every pathway and referral page, or alternatively email us at
  • Suggest new pathway areas to be developed in the future; complete suggesting a pathway form and email to
Share this article