Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse refers to actions that harm an older person or jeopardize their health or welfare. The harm can be physical, psychological or financial. It may also include inappropriate dominance or control and may include isolation from people who might intervene.

These statistics presented here are a snapshot and to me shocking. We have to understand that abuse is not some rare occurrence affecting only a few people. 

It would not be surprising that those reading this know people who are being abused, without realizing what is happening.

·       1 in 12 seniors in B.C. are abused - some experts believe this figure is only the tip of the iceberg
·       Between 168,000 and 421,000 seniors in Canada are experiencing or have experienced abuse or neglect
·       80% of abuse or neglect of seniors is never reported - only 1 in 5 cases comes to the attention of community agencies or authorities.

Abuse is not confined to certain kinds of people. Anybody can experience abuse, but some people are at greater risk, Abuse Can happen to any older adult including those who are mentally competent and independent. It can happen in a variety of living situations. At greater risk for abuse are:
·       Older people who are isolated socially and/or geographically
·       Elderly women from ethno-cultural minorities
·       People who have mental or physical impairments
·       Spouses who have been abused earlier in a relationship

Abuse and neglect can occur in any culture, but immigrant and refugee seniors face all these barriers and more because of:
·       Racism and discrimination
·       Lack of knowledge of social and financial systems
·       Inability to speak or understand English
·       Cultural traditions regarding family
·       Fear of deportation

An abuser is not necessarily a stranger an abuser can be a person in the family. This is a complicating factor because people don’t want their loved one to suffer the consequences of being treated as an abuser. Also, people want to believe that it won’t happen again. If it happens once, it will probably happen again. Who could be an abuser?

Family Abuser (Includes spouse, children and/or grandchildren)
·       4% of Canadian seniors suffer from serious forms of family abuse
·         Adult children were the abusers in 38% of the family assaults against seniors with older men more likely to be victimized
·         Spouses were the abusers in 26% of assaults against seniors with older women more likely to be victimized
·         Family homicides against seniors have increased over the last 10 years
·        Others such as friends, neighbours, landlords, and any individual in a position of power, trust or authority.
Abuse can happen in Residential Care
There has been little research about abuse and neglect by residential care staff but
·         10% of consumers of attendant care services said they had been physically abused by their attendants
·         Ontario College of Nurses Survey: 50% of staff had witnessed abuse in institutions

American Study of Nursing Staff:
·         36% witnessed physical abuse, 10% had engaged in it
·         81% observed psychological abuse
·         40% had engaged in it

When looking at Residential care there are risk factors that are particularly important because the shortage of residential beds and the very high cost forces people to enter residences with poor care, where the proprietors are more concerned with the bottom line than the welfare of the residents.  I am not saying that most residences are in this category but those that are have a steady supply of people to abuse. Signs to look for:
·         Staffing factors
o    Poorly trained staff
o    Overworked staff
o    Language barriers and cultural misunderstandings
·         Institutional factors
o    Low standards of care
o    Substandard physical environment
o    Policies that favour the interests of the institution rather than of the residents

There are many factors which are ingrained in society’s view of older persons as burdens rather than blessings.

We must work to change that mind set. Sometimes abuse happens because we don’t have proper support systems for caregivers and proper home support for seniors. 

Some of the factors that contribute to Elder Abuse are:
·         Ageism:  Belief that older adults are not entitled to respect
·         Vulnerability:  Opportunities for abuse increase as the older person becomes more frail or ill
·         Caregiver stress and frustration increase as the older person becomes more dependent (e.g. burnout)
·         Weaker ties between family generations
·         More demands on family caregivers, i.e. the sandwich generation
·         Social isolation because of physical or mental infirmities or through the loss of friends and family
·         Changes in the basic support systems available to seniors False sense of entitlement because care is being provided (however, the care is not necessarily of high quality)
·         Need or greed:  Abuser feels he or she needs or could enjoy the money or possessions more than the elder adult does
·         Seniors are easy targets – more likely to have assets, a home and money in the bank

1 comment:

  1. Disgraceful statistics but I would guess mirrored in the UK too from the stories that make local and national headlines