Shame, fear and not being aware the crime is happening are three big reasons elder abuse isn’t reported. But whatever form it takes, it can cause serious damage.

As Canada’s population ages and people live longer, the demand for assisted care is also on the rise.

And with that industry growing, so has the number of reported elder abuse cases..

Waterloo Region police Det. Const. David Haughey works with the Elder Abuse Response Team (EART).

He says “We’re not quite sure what the stats are, but we know it’s underreported.”

The force’s two-person team investigates or consults on allegations of elder abuse.

So far in 2012, the EART has investigated over 130 cases of elder abuse, while last year they investigated 120 cases.

Five to 10 per cent of investigations lead to criminal charges, and the team says in most cases the abuse comes at the hands of family member.

Home Instead Senior Care’s Kathleen Needles says she knows why so many cases of family abuse go unreported.

“If the abuse is from a son or a family member, there is shame in saying that this is what my son or daughter is doing to me.”

In fact, most elder abuse cases are reported to authorities by long-term care workers.

And while the majority of cases happen inside family homes, the allegations of abuse in nursing homes are often the most publicized because the caregiver is paid.

The most obvious form of elder abuse is physical violence, but the EART says financial abuse is common and neglect can also lead to psychological harm.

Coming up in part two: Meet a father worried about being a burden and his daughter, who has learned to cope with the stress of being a caregiver to keep the family together.