For Family and Friends

Are you worried a friend or family member is being harmed? Knowing that someone you care about is being harmed can be very difficult. You may feel helpless, frustrated, or fearful for them. Stay encouraged - there are many steps you can take to help, starting with knowing more about potentially warning signs of abuse. Please click the link below to read about some potential indicators that an older adult may be abused, neglected or exploited follow the link below:  

Ways to Help a Victim of Abuse in Later Life

Many victims of abuse in later life feel alone and ashamed as a result of the abuse. They may blame themselves for the abuse or feel they have nowhere to turn. They may also feel pressure from others not to report the abuse. They may worry that no one will believe them if they report the abuse. 

Start the Conversation

If you are concerned about an older adult and you wish to help, start by approaching them at a time and place that is safe and private. Let them know that you are concerned about them and that they do not deserve to be harmed. Let them know that you care for them, you respect them, and you are there to help. To get the conversation started, you consider asking some general questions, like the following:

  • How are you spending your time?
  • Who do you see and talk to each day?
  • Is there anything that is worrying you?
  • How can I help you?

If Someone Confides in You About Being Abused

Offer support to them without criticism. Acknowledge the strength and bravery it takes to talk about such a difficult topic. Let them know the abuse is not their fault and that you are there to support them. Let them know that help and safety is available. Encourage them to speak with an advocate who can assist them as they think through their options and develop strategies for staying safe. Let them know they can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get important information and talk confidentially to someone about their experience and available resources or contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network to find local sexual abuse victim service programs. Another resource to find local services is NCALL’s National Abuse in Later Life Directory: 

NCALL’s National Abuse in Later Life Directory

Be Supportive

It can be hard to learn that an older adult that you care about or love is being harmed. Keep in mind that they may choose to maintain contact with someone who is harming them and they may not be interested contacting anyone for assistance. They may be afraid of their abuser or of the consequences of reporting the abuse. It may take time for them to make a decision. If you are concerned about the person’s safety, speak up, but remember, they may be the best judge of their circumstances.

If you feel the person is in immediate danger, contact 911. Also, if you are concerned that the older adult may not have the cognitive capacity to make decisions about the situation due to dementia or another medical condition, consider working with health care providers and adult protective services to help. 

Take Care of Yourself

Supporting someone who is being harmed is not easy. Sometimes, being supportive of someone who is being abuse is a long and arduous process. Self-care is very important. Be sure to take care of yourself and that you have your own support system through this difficult process. 

Older Survivor Stories

Many older adults who are being harmed display amazing personal strength and courage during difficult times. Too often these older survivors are being harmed by persons they care about or love. Many older survivors encounter significant barriers, such as lack of economic resources or affordable housing, which limit the options available to them when they are trying to live free from abuse.

Some older survivors are speaking out about their experiences to help other potential victims know that they are not alone and help is available. To hear directly from some older adults that were being harmed, please click any of the following links:

Survivor Story “The Day That Changed My Life Forever” by Mary

I Can't Believe I'm Free (Pat)

Lois & Sam's Story

Miss Mary's Story

A Mother Never Gives Up Hope (Anne)



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