Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is often defined as “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 definition was established by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK, but was then subsequently adopted by the World Health Organisation and has, at its core, the concept that such abuse is defined by the ‘expectation of trust’ of the older person toward their abuser.

Consequently, it excludes more general criminal activity such as ‘muggings’ in the street or ‘distraction burglary’, where one stranger distracts an older person at their doorstep while another enters the property to steal. This definition has been extended to include dependent adult abuse, which applies when the victim is physically or financially dependent on the abusive caregiver.

There are several types of abuse of older people that are universally recognised as being elder abuse and these include:

Physical: e.g. hitting, punching, slapping, burning, pushing, kicking, restraining, false imprisonment/confinement, or giving too much medication or the wrong medication

Psychological: e.g. shouting, swearing, frightening, blaming, ridiculing, constantly criticizing, ignoring or humiliating a person. A common theme is a perpetrator who identifies something that matters to an older person and then uses it to coerce an older person into a particular action

Financial: e.g. illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables (including changing the person’s will to name the abuser as heir), often fraudulently obtaining power of attorney, followed by deprivation of money or other property, or by eviction from own home

Sexual: e.g. forcing a person to take part in any sexual activity without his or her consent, including forcing them to participate in conversations of a sexual nature against their will

Neglect: e.g. depriving a person of food, heat, clothing or comfort or essential medication.

In addition some countries also recognise the following as elder abuse:

Rights abuse: denying the civil and constitutional rights of a person who is old, but not declared by court to be mentally incapacitated. This is an aspect of elder abuse that is increasingly being recognised and adopted by nations

Self-neglect: elderly persons neglecting themselves by not caring about their own health or safety.

Institutional abuse and racial abuse are not usually included in such categories as they tend to denote the motivation or circumstances, rather than the manifestation of abuse. That is not to suggest that institutional practices, often marginalised as examples of ‘poor practice’, do not form a major aspect of elder abuse, or that racially motivated abuse is not a signicant area of concern.


One Response to “Elder Abuse”

  1. Ingvar says:

    Elder law is certainly a growing field. I hope this blog grows.

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