Elder Abuse in Malaysia: All You Need to Know

As we approach to be an ageing nation by 2030, there needs to be public awareness on elder abuse which is increasing among households. Learn more in this article.

by Calvyn Ee

Elder Abuse in Malaysia

Elder abuse, sometimes called geriatric abuse, is a worrying social ill that is becoming a growing concern as Malaysia is on track to be an ageing nation by the year 2030. In fact, the the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry found that, from 2018 to June 2022, a total of 2,144 senior citizens were abandoned at various hospitals around the country. Of that total, only 914 senior citizens were successfully reunited with their family: that’s only 42 percent of the total number.

In 2022 alone, 752 senior citizens were left abandoned; of that number, 412 were placed in welfare homes. Social workers will make attempts to reunite the abandoned senior with their family, but a significant number refuse to bring their family member home. A prominent reason cited is due to “family problems.”

The Ministry also noted that only “23 cases of elder abuse were reported between 2014 and 2016;” it’s likely that a vast majority of elder abuse incidents go unreported, either due to fear of being abandoned, or having no way of making a report. In fact, the lack of data does pose a challenge for various agencies and other bodies to effectively address elder abuse.

As the government plans to eventually table a bill to protect senior citizens in 2024, let’s look at what elder abuse really is and how we can help prevent it.

Causes of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse occurs when someone close to an elderly person – usually family members, but may also include close friends, maids, or private caregivers at a nursing home or a similar facility  – causes purposeful harm to the elderly person. Elder abuse can happen due to any number of reasons:

  • In families, there may be resentment towards the elderly person(s), either because of the financial burden of taking care of their wellbeing or some other factors. This isn’t necessarily true in all households, as many families are more than willing to provide for their elderly loved ones.
  • There may be an abusive relationship between the elderly person(s) and their family members, spouse, or caregiver, which may involve physical harm or other forms of abuse.
  • Some sociocultural norms may make elder abuse more likely, such as the normalisation of violence towards family members.
  • Persons who may have an alcohol/drug/gambling addiction may inflict elder abuse on their elderly loved ones.
  • Ageism is when a person holds prejudicial views towards the elderly, which can lead to elder abuse due to ignorance of the needs of the elderly.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is further broken down into different categories that involve the abandonment, exploitation, or harming of elderly persons. Those who are affected by any of these forms of abuse may find it difficult to make a report about the abuse they’ve been put through, either because they live under the same roof as their abuser and in fear , or because they don’t know what channels to make a report to, or are unable to make a report.

Elder abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, or religion.


Physical abuse is when a person inflicts physical or bodily harm to an elderly person, which may include punching, slapping, or beating with an item. This type of abuse also includes denying physical access to some parts or the entirety of a house/nursing facility, tying the elderly person up (to furniture, in some serious cases), or becoming physically impaired after multiple instances of abuse.

A study conducted in 2022 found that “one in 11 elderly adults polled” had experienced physical abuse, a concerning figure to worry about.

Are you dealing with difficult elderly parents who are also demanding your care and assistance? Here are 12 tips on how to manage the relationship and set boundaries.


This type of abuse occurs when an elderly person’s needs are intentionally not met. This includes neglecting the elderly person’s physical and mental wellbeing, hygiene, hunger, medications, and so on. Abandoning an elderly person, whether on the streets or to a nursing home, is a more harmful form of abuse as it can deprive the elderly person further of their needs.

In cases where an elderly person is denied contact with other family members or friends, let alone being involved in any gatherings or social events, this form of neglect may be known as social abuse. This has some overlap with emotional abuse.


This occurs when an elderly person is forced to engage in unwanted sexual interactions, whether it’s forced viewing of obscene content, sexual harassment, or non-consensual sexual contact.


People who verbally and/or non-verbally abuse elderly persons in any way are inflicting emotional, or psychological, abuse. Such actions include humiliation, threats, name-calling, bullying, and harassment. This type of abuse can cause lasting harm to an elderly person’s self-esteem, leading to depression or other forms of mental health or cognitive decline.


This type of abuse involves the “illegal, unauthorized, or improper use” of an elderly person’s money or belongings, whether by lying, legal action, theft, misuse of credit or debit cards, or forcibly demanding their assets to be given to someone else (whether it’s family or friends). It also includes actions that illegally (or without any consent from the elderly person) alter any legal documents regarding the management of an elderly person’s assets (e.g., insurance policies and wills).


Medical abuse may overlap with any of the aforementioned types of abuse, in which it involves denying an elderly person access to the healthcare they need (be it medications or treatments) to recover from any medical condition(s) they may have. This can be due to racism, sexism, or any number of other reasons.

For the most part, many forms of abuse will overlap with a few other types of abuse. All of them will still lead to poor health outcomes for seniors.

Signs of Elder Abuse

It isn’t always obvious if someone is suffering from elder abuse. Physical abuse may leave visible bruises and scars, but verbal, emotional and financial abuse are a lot less apparent. Where possible, if you suspect that someone might be a victim of elder abuse, be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Signs of depression or withdrawal
  • Being isolated from others
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Dishevelled appearance
  • Unexplained presence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sudden lack of personal funds/belongings
  • Presence of bed sores or other preventable health issues
  • Poor hygiene or overall health

It can be difficult to bring up the subject of abuse with seniors who are victims, so don’t force it if they are unwilling to talk about it. The important thing is to identify the signs and get them professional help to get them on the right track.

The Effects of Elder Abuse

Physical wounds may heal, but the scars left behind from short/long-term abuse can linger for a far longer time. The consequences of any kind of elder abuse can lead to detrimental long-term effects, which include a deterioration in their physical and mental health. The recovery process can also take a significant time, which may also impact their overall wellbeing, especially if they already have existing medical conditions.

For example, frailty in an elderly person who is abused can potentially cause lasting damage to their physical wellbeing. Broken bones can take a very long time to mend, sorely affecting an elderly person’s mobility and independence. Financial abuse can cause significant financial strain, which in turn, will affect their wellbeing since they no longer have access to medical assistance when they need it.

Elder abuse can also impact their sociability with others, as they may lack the ability to socialise with others, either due to fear, mistrust, or a combination of emotions.

The impact of elder abuse should not be taken lightly, and it’s why the importance of preventing elder abuse becomes paramount to keep them safe and healthy.

Preventing Elder Abuse

The government has plans to table a senior citizens’ Bill to protect the rights of elderly Malaysians, on top of other initiatives such as the construction of senior citizen activity centres (PAWE) throughout the country, specifically in “parliamentary constituencies which do not have such facilities.” Though it does fall to the government to protect its citizens, we also play an instrumental role in preventing elder abuse wherever it may happen.

Greater awareness on elder abuse is needed to educate the public on why it’s a concerning issue that we need to prevent. There are some who may think that elder abuse is “a normal thing” that occurs; on the contrary, elder abuse is causing undue harm to a person who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It’s crucial for society to understand that these cruel practices need to be stopped and legal action should be taken against abusers in order to prevent further harm from being inflicted towards elderly persons.

Awareness programs also need to be targeting the elderly themselves, especially with protecting themselves from any form of abuse the best they can. This includes teaching them how to make a report, what hotlines they can call for support, how to spot possible financial scams, and many other important topics.

It’s also important to learn how to spot the signs of elder abuse in a person. This way, you’ll be able to help someone leave an abusive relationship and ensure they get the care and support they need to thrive in their twilight years. If you have suspicions that an elderly person may be suffering from elder abuse, quickly contact the relevant authorities. There’s also the Talian Nur hotline (15999) that can provide assistance to victims of domestic violence (physical abuse).

Do not, under any circumstance, confront the purported abuser on your own! Let the authorities take action. The least you can do is to make a report; going further than that can put you at risk of getting injured.



About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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