Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Recommendations for first comprehensive nursing guideline on elder abuse released today


TORONTO, June 13, 2014 - Today, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) unveiled a set of over 20 recommendations aimed at helping nurses and other health-care providers, the system, government and educators prevent and speak about a distressing concern: elder abuse and the neglect of older adults. These acts can lead to physical trauma, decreased self worth and dignity, a lost sense of safety and security and even an increased risk of early death.

The recommendations are contained in a forthcoming RNAO best practice guideline (BPG) Preventing and Addressing Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults: Person-Centred, Collaborative, System-Wide Approaches. Among other things, the BPG calls on health-care providers, including registered nurses, to identify the rights, priorities, needs and preferences of older adults when it comes to lifestyle and care decisions - before determining interventions and supports.

The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the province's self-regulating body for nurses, supports a recommendation contained in the BPG that states "provincial and territorial regulatory bodies provide accurate information on jurisdictional laws and obligations relevant to abuse and neglect of older adults across the continuum of care." Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s chief executive officer says "we are pleased that our regulatory body (CNO) recognizes the pivotal role the BPG can play in helping to better protect and support older adults". "We hope RNAO's BPG will be adopted by all health-care organizations and individual providers to help put an end to what can only be described as a horrifying and hugely troublesome trend."

Other key recommendations speak to mandatory education for all employees across all health-care organizations serving older adults that includes a focus on: ageism; the rights of older adults and the types, prevalence and signs of abuse and neglect of older adults; factors that may contribute to abuse and neglect; and individual roles and responsibilities with regard to responding to and reporting abuse or neglect.

"As a geriatrician, I feel it is imperative to tackle this ongoing and pervasive yet often silent concern," says Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network hospitals in Toronto and expert lead of Ontario's Seniors Strategy. "With the coming and rapid growth of our aging population, we must stand up, support and protect the rights of older Canadians. The recommendations contained in this best practice guideline will go a long way towards preventing and addressing this important issue."

Sinha and Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks co-led a Canadian panel of experts charged with providing expertise and insight into the development of the BPG. "The BPG offers a meaningful response to the challenges endemic to elder abuse work," says Podnieks, the founder of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. "It is of value to anyone who cares about elderly people, and keeping them out of harm's way."

The evidence-based guideline is part of an RNAO-led initiative to prevent and address abuse and neglect of older adults and is funded by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.

“Elder abuse is an appalling act and our government is committed to protecting seniors from all forms of abuse. I am thankful for the dedicated work being done by organizations like the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, which aims to protect and improve the lives of seniors across Canada," says the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors).

The BPG will be supported by an e-learning course and a plain language resource for the public.

It will be available for free on RNAO's website in English and French.

The guideline is slated to be released in July. Check for more details.

RNAO's Best Practice Guidelines Program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and was launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across a wide range of health-care settings. The 50 guidelines developed to date are a substantial contribution towards building excellence in Ontario's health system. They are available to all health professionals in Canada and abroad. To learn more about RNAO's Nursing Best Practice Guidelines Program or to view these resources, please visit

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the healthcare system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For more information about RNAO, visit

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To arrange an interview with a nurse, or for more information, please contact:

Melissa Di Costanzo
Communications Officer/Writer, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario
Office: 416-408-5606