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Abuse of elderly


This paper defines abuse of elderly giving its categories. It also gives risk factors of elderly abuse, the causes of the abuse and the consequences of elderly abuse.

Abuse of elderly

This is any act occurring in a relationship where there exist an implication of trust resulting in harm to an older person if form of financial, physical social or sexual abuse and neglect in community or institutional care (Saunders L.2008).

Categories of abuse include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect and abuse by system as explained hereunder. Physical abuse is the infliction of pain (injury), physical coercion, or physical or drug induced restraint to an older person. Emotional and verbal abuse is the discrimination based on the age, insults as well as hurtful words, denigration, intimidation, false accusations, psychological pain and distress. Financial abuse is extortion and control of pension money, theft of property and exploitation of older people to force them to care for grandchildren or it is the illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or resources of the older person. Sexual abuse is incest, rape and other types of sexual coercion or it is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with the older person. Neglect is the loss of respect for elders, withholding of affection, and lack of interest in the older person’s well-being. Accusations of witchcraft are the stigmatization and ostracization to elderly person. Abuse by systems is the dehumanizing treatment older people are liable to suffer at health clinics and pension offices, and marginalization by the government. (Abuse of elderly)

The risk factors for elderly abuse

Individual factors: physically aggressive abusers have personality disorders and alcohol-related problems than the general population .Cognitive and physical impairments of the abused person are strongly identified in early studies as risk factors for abuse. Relationship factors: The studies involving caregiver stress, Alzheimer disease and elder abuse suggest that the nature of the relationship between the caregiver and the care recipient before abuse begins is an important predictor of abuse. Stress is a contributing factor in cases of abuse. Community and societal factors: The systems of patrilineal and matrilineal inheritance and land rights affect the distribution of power; the societies’ view the role of women; the erosion of bonds between generations of a family, caused by rural to urban migration and the growth in formal education and the loss, through modernization, of the traditional domestic, ritual and family arbitration roles of older people. Domestic settings: evidence from studies in developed countries show that a higher proportion of abused elderly people suffer from depression or psychological distress than do their non-abused peers. Other symptoms associated with cases of abuse include feelings of helplessness, alienation, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, denial and post-traumatic stress. This mistreatment can cause severe interpersonal stress leading to death. Institutions: various people are responsible for the abuse in institutions: a member of the staff, resident, a voluntary visitor, relatives or friends where the prevailing regime of the institution itself is abusive or negligent. (Elder mistreatment).

The spectrum of abuse and neglect within institutions spans a considerable range, and are to the following: The provision of care for example, resistance to changes in geriatric medicine, erosion of individuality in the care, inadequate nutrition and deficient nursing care, problems with staffing for example, work-related stress and staff burnout, poor physical working conditions, insufficient training and psychological problems among staff, difficulties in staff ,resident interactions  for example, poor communication, aggressiveness on the part of residents and cultural differences, environment for example, a lack of basic privacy, dilapidated facilities, the use of restraints, inadequate sensory stimulation, and a proneness to accidents within the institution, organizational policies for example, those that operate for the benefit of the institution, giving residents few choices over daily living; bureaucratic or unsympathetic attitudes towards residents; staff shortages or high staff turnover; fraud involving residents’ possessions or money; and lack of a residents’ council or residents’ family council. Anecdotal evidence from India suggests that institutional abuse is often perpetuated by staff through a system of unquestioning regimentation. (Abuse of elderly).

Complex factors contributing to elderly abuse include factors such as drug or alcohol problems in the abuser, negative attitude towards the older person, the history of family violence, high dependency of older person on others for their care, intergenerational family violence and stress of ill equipped and poorly supported career (Saunders L.2008).

Causes of abuse

Social isolation or lack of support can contribute to abuse or neglect; the sufferers of abuse in these situations are unwilling to join programs that encourage social interaction. The role of ageism, discrimination against and stigmatization of older people can cause elder abuse. The marginalization of the elderly is a contributory factor.

Prevention strategies

Measures that may be useful include the following:  the development and implementation of comprehensive care plans; training for staff; policies and programs to address work related stress among staff; the development of policies and programs to improve the physical and social environment of the institution. (Abuse of elderly)

The consequences of elder abuse

Older people are physically weaker hence more vulnerable than younger adults since their bones are more brittle and convalescence takes longer. Minor injury can cause serious and permanent damage. Many older people survive on limited incomes hence the loss of even a small sum of money can have a significant impact. They may be isolated, lonely and troubled by illness in which case they are more vulnerable as targets for the fraudulent schemes. (Catherine C. 2006).

Indicator of elderly abuse

Physical indicators include complaints of being physically assaulted, unexplained falls and injuries, burns and bruises while behavioral and emotional indicators are: change in eating pattern, sleep problems, fear and confusion.  The sexual indicators are complaints of being sexually assaulted, frequent complaints of abdominal pain and unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding and genital infections. (Abuse of elderly)


The problem of elder abuse cannot be properly solved if the essential needs of older people such as food, shelter, security and access to health care are not met. The nations of the world must create an environment free of abuse and exploitation to elderly people gives them opportunities to participate fully in educational cultural, spiritual and economic activities.


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