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Definition of the mistreatment of older adults

“Mistreatment is an act, word, attitude or lack of appropriate action, singular or repeated, occurring within any relationship with a person, a community or an organization where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an adult, whether the person deliberately wants to cause harm or not.”

Definition (inspired by the WHO (2002). The Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Act to combat maltreatment of seniors and other persons of full age in vulnerable situations. (RLRQ, chapter L-6.3)

Forms of Mistreatment (Manifestations)


Poor treatment of an older adult, or making the older adult act against his or her will, through the use of force and/or bullying*.

* “Bullying of older adults is an act, or the absence of action, of a single or repetitive nature that is generally deliberate and is committed directly or indirectly within a relationship of force, power or control between individuals, which is motivated by the intent to cause harm to one, or more, older adults.” (See Beaulieu, M., Bédard, M.-È. & Leboeuf, R. (2016). L’intimidation envers les personnes aînées : un problème social connexe à la maltraitance? Revue Service social. 62(1), 38-56.)



Failure to show concern for the older adult, particularly by not taking appropriate action to meet his or her needs.

The intention behind mistreatment

Intentional mistreatment:  The person deliberately causes harm to the older adult.

Unintentional mistreatment: The person does not want to cause harm or does not understand the harm being caused.

NB: It is important to assess the signs and situation to avoid drawing hasty conclusions or labelling people.

Types of Mistreatment


Discrimination based on age, through hostile or negative attitudes, harmful actions or social exclusion.

Violence : Imposition of restrictions or social standards based on age, limited access to certain resources, prejudice, infantilization, scorn, etc.

Neglect : Failure to recognize or respond to ageist practices or comments, etc.

Signs: Failure to recognize a person’s rights, skills or knowledge, use of condescending language, etc.

NB: We are all influenced, to varying degrees, by negative stereotypes and discourses about older adults. These misguided assumptions lead us to misinterpret various situations, which can ultimately lead to mistreatment.

Organizational mistreatment

Any discriminating situation created or tolerated by organizational procedure (private, public or community institutions providing all types of care and services) responsible for providing care or service of all types to older adults.

Violence : Organizational conditions or practices that exclude older adults from decision-making which concerns them, causing the failure to respect older adults’ choice or limits in unjustified way the availability of help programs, etc.

Neglect :Services not adapted to older adults’ needs, absence of or poorly understood instructions on the part of personnel, lack of resources, complex administrative procedures, inadequate training of staff, unmobilized staff, etc.

Signs : Treating the person as a number, provision of care or services according to more or less rigid schedules, undue delays in service delivery, deterioration of the person’s physical – psychological – social health, complaints or reports to diverse instances, etc.

NB: Organizational mistreatment is not limited to the healthcare or social service network. It is important to remain aware of organizational shortcomings that could violate the individual or collective rights of older adults to receive care and services, or that could lead to conditions that negatively affect the work of staff in charge of providing care or services.

Violation of rights

Any infringement of individual and social rights and freedoms.

Violence : Forced medical treatment, denial of the right to: choose, vote, enjoy one’s privacy, to be informed, take decisions or risks, receive phone calls or visitors, express one’s sexual or romantic orientation or one’s gender identity, practice one’s religion or spirituality, etc.

Neglect : Lack of information or misinformation regarding the older adult’s rights, failure to assist the person in exercising his or her rights, failure to recognize the person’s capacities, denial to offer care or services, when justified, etc.

Signs : Preventing or blocking the participation of the older adult in the choices and decisions that concern them, a family member answering on behalf of the older adult, restriction of visits or access to information, isolation, complaints or reporting to various authorities, etc.

NB: Violation of rights occurs in all types of mistreatment. Everyone fully retains their rights, whatever their age. Only a judge can declare a person incapable and can appoint a legal representative. Persons declared incapable still preserve their rights and can exercise them, within the limits of their capacities.

Material or financial mistreatment

Illegal, unauthorized or dishonest acquisition or use of the older adult’s property or legal documents; lack of information or misinformation regarding financial or legal matters.

Violence : Pressure to change a will, banking transactions without the person’s consent (use of a debit card, online banking, etc.), misappropriation of money or assets, excessive price charged for services provided, forced or concealed contractual or insurance transaction, identity theft, signature of a lease under pressure, etc.

Neglect : Failure to manage the person’s assets in his or her best interest or to provide the necessary goods and/or services as required, failure to assess the person’s abilities, understanding and financial literacy, etc.

Signs : Unusual banking transactions, disappearance of valuable items, lack of money for regular expenses, limited access to information regarding the management of the person’s assets, etc.

NB : Older adults who are in a relationship of dependency (e.g., physical, emotional, social or business-related) are at a greater risk of being mistreated in this way. In addition to the financial and material implications, this type of mistreatment can affect older adults’ physical or psychological health by limiting their ability to fulfill their duties or meet their own needs.

Sexual mistreatment

Attitudes, words, gestures or absence of appropriate actions with a non consensual sexual connotation which are harmful to the person’s well-being, sexual integrity.

Violence : Suggestive comments or attitudes, jokes or insults with a sexual connotation, promiscuity, exhibitionist behaviours, assault (unwanted touching, non-consensual sex), etc.

Neglect : Failure to provide privacy, treating older adults as asexual beings and/or preventing them from expressing their sexuality, etc.

Signs : Infections, genital wounds, anxiety when being examined or receiving care, mistrust, withdrawal, depression, sexual disinhibition, sudden use of highly sexualized language, denial of older adults’ sexuality, etc.

NB : Sexual assault is above all an act of domination. Cognitive impairment may lead to disinhibition, which can result in inappropriate sexual behaviour. Not recognizing older adults’ sexuality is a form of mistreatment, and it also makes it more difficult to identify and report sexual mistreatment. It is also important to keep an eye out for pathological sexual attraction toward older adults (gerontophilia).

Physical mistreatment  

Attitudes, words, gestures or absence of appropriate actions, which harm the physical well-being or integrity

Violence : Shoving, brutalizing, hitting, burning, force-feeding, inadequate medication administration, inappropriate use of restraints (physical or pharmacological), etc.

Neglect : Failure to provide a reasonable level of comfort and safety; failure to provide assistance with eating, grooming, hygiene or taking medication when the older adult is in a situation of dependency, etc.

Signs : Bruises, injuries, weight loss, deteriorating health, poor hygiene, undue delay in changing of incontinence briefs, skin conditions, unsanitary living environment, atrophy, use of constraints, premature or suspicious death, etc.

NB : Some signs of physical mistreatment may be mistaken for symptoms associated with certain health conditions. It is therefore preferable to request a medical and/or psychosocial assessment.

Psychological mistreatment  

Attitudes, words, gestures or absence of appropriate actions that negatively affect an individual’s psychological well-being or integrity

Violence : Emotional blackmail, manipulation, humiliation, insults, infantilization, belittlement, verbal and non-verbal threats, disempowerment, excessive monitoring of activities, comments that are xenophobic, ableist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, etc.

Neglect : Rejection, indifference, social isolation, disinterest, insensitivity, etc.

Signs : Fear, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, reluctance to speak openly, mistrust, fearful interaction with one or several people, rapid decline of cognitive abilities, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, suicide, etc.

NB : Psychological mistreatment is the most common and least apparent type of mistreatment :

  • It often accompanies other types of mistreatment.
  • Its effects can be just as detrimental as those of other types of mistreatment.


The mission of The Mistreatment Helpline is to establish and implement a national telephone line dedicated to listening, timely intervention, crisis management and specialized guidance regarding the mistreatment of older adults. 

In operation since October 1, 2010, The Mistreatment Helpline (formerly The Elder Mistreatment Helpline) is located at the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and financed by the Secretariat aux Aînés. As part of the new 2022-2027 Government Action Plan, The Mistreatment Helpline is renewing its services for at least five years and expanding its mandate and partnerships, in order to continue to counter the mistreatment of older adults one call at a time.

Frequently Asked

Can I contact you even if I’m not sure whether it’s a situation of mistreatment?

Yes. If you see troubling signs, feel free to contact The Mistreatment Helpline at 1-888-489-2287 to talk about the situation.

Can I contact you by email for help or information?

No. Every situation that is brought to our attention merits a detailed evaluation. Since we offer a helpline service, we invite you to contact The Mistreatment Helpline at 1-888-489-2287. By talking with you, we can make sure we understand the situation and can recommend courses of action or possible solutions.

What happens if I leave a message on your voicemail?

If all of our practitioners are busy, or if you call outside of our operating hours, you’ll be invited to leave a message on our voicemail. Rest assured that we treat all information with the utmost confidentiality. Feel secure in leaving us a detailed message, making sure to give us your contact information, and let us know whether we can leave a message on your voicemail. We will call you back within 24 hours. Note that for security reasons, The Mistreatment Helpline (LAMAA) number does not display on the caller ID. In addition, we will not leave a voicemail message unless explicitly authorized by you.

I think I’m a victim of fraud, can I call you?

There are more and more media reports on fraud cases involving older adults. It is an increasingly prevalent problem, particularly online. Feel free to call us if you believe you are a victim of fraud. Our practitioners can refer you to the appropriate resources or provide support if you are experiencing difficulties. Fraud can have a negative impact on a person’s physical and psychological well-being.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre collects information on fraud and identity theft. We provide information on past and current scams affecting Canadians. If you think you're a victim of fraud, https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm

Can I call you if it’s an emergency situation?

The Mistreatment Helpline (LAMAA) is not an emergency service. In emergency situations, please call 9-1-1.

Can I remain anonymous if I call The Mistreatment Helpline?

Yes. We respect the wishes of individuals who do not want to be identified. Rest assured that we treat all information with the utmost confidentiality. Feel safe to leave us a message with your contact information, if you so choose.

When people contact you, do you open a file?

No. The Mistreatment Helpline (LAMAA) is a confidential service and it is our obligation to protect the privacy and personal information of callers. All information gathered during calls is noted in summarized form and remains confidential. 

Do you investigate when a caller alerts you to a situation of mistreatment?

No. We offer evaluation services specifically geared to the mistreatment of older adults and all adults in vulnerable situations. Our role is also to listen and to provide information, support and referrals. It is not within our mandate to investigate situations of mistreatment. However, we can direct you toward organizations that do have this mandate, depending on your needs and the situation.

I wish to express my dissatisfaction with the services offered by The Mistreatment Helpline. How do I proceed?

If you wish to express your dissatisfaction with the services received from professionals at The Mistreatment Helpline or if you wish to file a formal complaint:

  1. You can contact The Mistreatment Helpline and you will be directed to the Clinical Activity Specialist or LAMAA Coordinator depending on the nature of your dissatisfaction.
    By phone: 1-888-489-2287 or 514-489-2287
  2. If you are not satisfied or wish to make a formal complaint regarding the handling of complaints, you may contact the office of the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal Quality and Complaints Commissioner:
    By phone : 514-340-8222, ext 2422
    By email: ombudsman.ccomtl@ssss.gouv.qc.ca

I live outside of Quebec. Can I call you?

You can call us if the situation concerns a person living in the province of Quebec, even if you live outside of the province or outside of Canada. 

Do you offer the helpline service in languages other than English and French?

Yes, we can use an interpretation service to assist us in offering our services in other languages. We also invite you to consult the “Cultural communities” tab to find other organizations that can serve you in your language.

I'm hard of hearing, can I call you?

Yes, we can help people who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with a speech impediment by calling on the relay service.

I’m an adult experiencing mistreatment. Can I contact you?

The Mistreatment Helpline (LAMAA) is for anyone who is concerned about a situation of mistreatment of older adults and all adults in vulnerable situations.

We are here for you, call us

If you feel ready, take the time to call us and share your experience so that we can offer you the best possible help to counter the mistreatment you are experiencing or have experienced.