GIVINGTUESDAY ALL YEAR! Help to Empower Women and Improve Health Around the World – Elder Abuse On the Rise
Around 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse. This figure is higher than previously estimated and is predicted to increase as populations age around the world. A new study (based on 52 studies in 28 countries), supported by World Health Organization (WHO) and published in the Lancet Global Health, has found that almost 16% of people aged 60 years and older were subjected to either psychological abuse (11.6%), financial abuse (6.8%), neglect (4.2%), physical abuse (2.6%) or sexual abuse (0.9%).
Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations. The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.
The definition of elder abuse according to the World Health Organization is as follows, “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. Elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.”
WHO has come up with socio-cultural factors that may affect the risk of elder abuse. They are as follows:
- Depiction of older people as frail, weak and dependent
- Erosion of the bonds between generations of a family
- Systems of inheritance and land rights, affecting the distribution of power and material goods within families
- Migration of young couples, leaving elderly parents alone in societies where older people were traditionally cared for by their offspring; and
- Lack of funds to pay for care
Within institutions, abuse is more likely to occur where:
- Standards for health care, welfare services, and care facilities for elder persons are low
- Where staff are poorly trained, remunerated, and overworked
- Where the physical environment is deficient; and
- Where policies operate in the interests of the institution rather than the residents.
Prevention strategies implemented in high-income countries include:
- Public and professional awareness campaigns
- Screening (of potential victims and abusers)
- School-based intergenerational programs
- Caregiver support interventions (including stress management and respite care)
- Residential care policies to define and improve standards of care
- Caregiver training on dementia.
The goal is to stop elder abuse before it starts. While not much research has been done, there are several important things the CDC reminds us we can all do to prevent elder abuse:
- Listen to older adults and their caregivers to understand their challenges and provide support
- Report abuse or suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services
- Educate oneself and others about how to recognize and report elder abuse
- Learn how the signs of elder abuse differ from the normal aging process
- Check in often on older adults who may have few friends and family members.
- Provide over-burdened caregivers with emotional and instrumental supports such as help from friends, family, or local relief care groups; adult day care programs; counselling; or outlets intended to promote emotional well-being.
- Where prudent and possible involve more people than just family, formal caregivers, and guardians in health care or financial matters.
- Encourage and assist persons (either caregivers or older adults) having problems with drug or alcohol abuse in getting help.
Resources for Healthcare Professionals and the General Public
Elder Abuse Helplines and Hotlines – Always dial 911 or local police during emergencies.
Resources for Healthcare Professionals
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