Elder Abuse

Hardin, E., & Khan-Hudson, A. (2005). Elder abuse – “society’s dilemma”. Journal of the national medical association, 97, 91-94.

National Center on Elder Abuse (2005). Elder abuse prevalence and incidence. Washington, DC: National Center on Elder Abuse.

National Center on Elder Abuse (1999). Types of elder abuse in domestic settings. Washington, DC: National Center on Elder Abuse.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is recognized as a continually increasing and serious problem in our society. Unfortunately, due to under-reporting, variations in the definition of elder abuse, and the absence of a nationwide uniform reporting system, it is difficult to determine the scope of this issue. The National Center on Elder Abuse distinguishes between seven different types of elder abuse. These include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial/material exploitation, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect.
  • Physical abuse. Use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment.

  • Sexual abuse. Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person.

  • Emotional abuse. Infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts.

  • Financial/material exploitation. Illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets.

  • Neglect. Refusal, or failure, to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elderly person.

  • Abandonment. Desertion of an elderly person by an individual who has physical custody of the elder or by a person who has assumed responsibility for providing care to the elder.

  • Self-neglect. Behaviors of an elderly person that threaten the elder’s health or safety.

Prevalence & Incidence

Currently, there are no official national statistics relating to the prevalence of this dilemma. However, current research estimates that approximately 1 to 2 million Americans, age 65 or older have been abused or neglected by the very people they entrust with their care and protection (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2005).

Demographics

The majority of elder abuse victims are female, whereas the majority of the perpetrators are male. Overall, adult children are most often the perpetrators of elder abuse, followed by other family members and spouses. Unfortunately, institutional abuse of the elderly (i.e. hospitals, convalescent homes, and board-and-care homes) is also becoming a major concern, particularly since more families are unable to provide appropriate care for the elderly at home.

How does this relate to the ACT Against Violence program?

Current research demonstrates that the primary abusers of the elderly are adult children and other family members, indicating that violence against elderly persons occurs mostly at home. It has been suggested that family stresses, both psychological and financial, may be a contributing factor to elder abuse. If young children are in a home where this form of violence occurs, this experience can have an impact on them. Research has demonstrated that children exposed to violence, whether they are the intended victim or witnesses to violence perpetration, are more likely to have behavioral problems and later become perpetrators of aggression and violence themselves.

Parents are the most influential role-models in children’s lives. If a child witnesses his or her parent abusing an elderly family member, that child learns that acting aggressively toward elders is acceptable behavior. The ACT program emphasizes the need for families to express and manage their anger and frustration constructively, and model appropriate, non-aggressive behaviors for their children. The program teaches adults to use anger management as a violence-prevention asset so that they can express and channel their anger without becoming aggressive toward others.