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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Injuries and Wounds > Abuse, Elder
      Category : Health Centers > Abuse and Violence

Abuse, Elder

Alternate Names : Elder Abuse, Institutional Abuse, Domestic Abuse

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person. It may occur while the person is living alone, with others, or in an institution.

  • Domestic elder abuse refers to mistreatment by someone who has a special relationship with the elder. This person could be a spouse, sibling, child, friend, or other caregiver.
  • Institutional abuse refers to mistreatment of someone living in a facility for older persons. This includes nursing homes, foster homes, group homes, or board and care facilities where staff is paid to provide care.
  • Self-neglect occurs when the behavior of an older person living alone threatens his or her own health or safety.
  • There are four common types of elder abuse.

  • Physical abuse is pain or injury inflicted on purpose by a caregiver. It may include slapping, pushing, pinching, beating, physical restraint, or sexual assault.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse is mental suffering inflicted intentionally by a caregiver. It may include humiliation, intimidation, threats, and destruction of belongings.
  • Financial abuse is improper or illegal use of the resources of an older person without consent. It may include the sale of a home or belongings.
  • Neglect is failing to provide reasonable care. For example, a person may be abandoned or denied food or healthcare.
  • What are the causes and risks of the injury?

    A study by the National Center for Elder Abuse found there were nearly 300,000 reports of domestic elder abuse in 1996. This was a 150% increase over the previous 10 years! Plus, the study noted that for each incident reported, as many as another 13 may have gone unreported.

    Psychological, social, and economic factors all contribute to elder abuse. One or more of these issues may trigger it:

  • Caregiver stress. Caring for older, frail people can be time-consuming and very stressful. The stress is greater when the older person is mentally or physically impaired.
  • Cycle of violence. Some families act more violent than others. Violence is a learned behavior passed down from parents to children. In these families, abusive behavior is the normal response to tension or conflict. Spouses are also one of the most common elder abusers. In these cases, the elder abuse is often a continuation of a pattern of spousal abuse started years earlier.
  • Impaired mental or physical health. Elders in poor health are more likely to be abused than those in good health. Abuse tends to occur when an older person's mental or physical health worsens and stress rises.
  • Personal problems of the abuser. Adult children who abuse their parents may suffer from mental disorders, alcohol dependence, drug abuse or addiction, and financial problems. They may have just finished raising their children and now find themselves tied down again taking care of a parent.
  • The typical victim of elder abuse is a widowed, white woman. In her mid-70s or older, she lives on a fixed income. However, it's vital to note that victims do not have to fit the typical picture. Elder abuse happens in all ethnic groups, races, and economic groups.

    The abuser is often a spouse or adult child. Two-thirds of abusers are family members, most of them serving in the caregiving role. Often, the victim does not report the abuse. He or she may:

  • fear revenge by the abuser
  • feel embarrassed
  • worry about being put into an institution


    Next section


    Abuse, Elder: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Karen Preston, PHN, MS, CRRN
    Date Reviewed: 09/04/01

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