Font size

Daphné-Maude Thivierge


Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policies (2012), University of Sherbrooke.

Quebec Bar (2009).

Baccalaureate degree in Law (2007), University of Montreal.




Vulnerable older adults and mistreatment at home: a complex problem.




Master’s degree carried out from fall 2010 to summer 2012.

Master’s thesis written in 2012.


The mistreatment of older adults is a social problem with serious consequences, and it has become a priority for governments. We are tackling this polymorphous phenomenon by focusing on the relevant general notions and studying them from a critical viewpoint. The detection of this type of situation is a delicate matter since, in addition to the challenges faced by professionals, a general portrait of the protagonists has yet to be formulated.

To avoid ageism, Quebec has refused to adopt an act to specifically protect older adults, relying on the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and its concept of exploitation. Also, professionals are generally unable to report mistreatment because they are required to maintain professional secrecy. The decision to protect an older adult who is subject to mistreatment thus produces an extremely delicate legal and ethical dilemma.

Please note that the context in which the essay was first written has evolved. In May 2017,  a law intended to counter the mistreatment of older adults in vulnerable situations was adopted by the National Assembly.




Our study focuses on healthy but vulnerable older adults, a notion that is not easy to identify. To optimize the protection of vulnerable older adults, we are working with different interventions established in an attempt to deal with this social problem.


First, we will focus on mistreatment in general in order to draw up a better portrait of this polymorphous phenomenon. Then, we will focus on protection against mistreatment, in particular in the delicate situation of healthy and able older adults, in other words, older adults not under protective supervision, but whose faculties have diminished enough to leave them vulnerable in certain situations. Next, we will discuss professional secrecy and the legal and ethical dilemmas raised by reporting mistreatment. Finally, we will conclude our study with an overview of possible interventions and a discussion of potential modifications to legislation and possible concrete and multisectoral actions.

  • Literature review and analysis on the definition of mistreatment and exploitation in regard to the law;
  • Literature review and analysis on risk factors and mistreatment indicators;
  • Literature review and analysis on the challenges related to identifying cases of mistreatment;
  • Literature review and analysis on the definition of older adults and vulnerability;
  • Literature review and analysis on reporting from the perspective of professional secrecy and the associated legal and ethical issues;
  • The development of a proposal regarding legislation;
  • The development of concrete proposals.


The final version of this study was completed in May 2012. Since then, Daphné-Maude has published one article. Also, in collaboration with Marie Beaulieu, she is writing a chapter about mistreatment and the rights of older adults for a book to be published in 2016. The book is being written under the guidance of Ann Soden Ad.E., and will be one of the first publications about the rights of older adults to be produced in Quebec.




Thivierge, D.-M. (2012). L’aîné vulnérable et la maltraitance à domicile: une problématique complexe (Essai de maîtrise). Faculté de droit, Université de Sherbrooke, 109p.