Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.
The common forms of abuse of elderly persons are as follows.
People who commit elder abuse are often in a position of trust.
Risk factors that may increase the potential for abuse of an older person
Risks at the individual level include poor physical and mental health of the victim, and mental disorders and alcohol and substance abuse in the abuser. Other individual-level factors which may increase the risk of abuse include the gender of victim and a shared living situation. While older men have the same risk of abuse as women, in some cultures where women have inferior social status, elderly women are at higher risk of neglect and financial abuse (such as seizing their property) when they are widowed. Women may also be at higher risk of more persistent and severe forms of abuse and injury.
A shared living situation is a risk factor for elder abuse. It is not yet clear whether spouses or adult children of older people are more likely to perpetrate abuse. An abuser's dependency on the older person (often financial) also increases the risk of abuse. In some cases, a long history of poor family relationships may worsen as a result of stress when the older person becomes more care dependent. Finally, as more women enter the workforce and have less spare time, caring for older relatives becomes a greater burden, increasing the risk of abuse.
Social isolation of caregivers and older persons, and the ensuing lack of social support, is a significant risk factor for elder abuse by caregivers. Many elderly people are isolated because of loss of physical or mental capacity, or through the loss of friends and family members.
Socio-cultural factors that may affect the risk of elder abuse include:
Within institutions, abuse is more likely to occur where:
Risk factors for committing elder abuse
Many strategies have been implemented to prevent elder abuse and to take action against it and mitigate its consequences. Interventions that have been implemented – mainly in high-income countries – to prevent abuse include:
Efforts to respond to and prevent further abuse include interventions such as:
Source : WHO