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A GLOBAL RESPONSE TO ELDER ABUSE AND NEGLECT

1 Research background

    • 1.1

      What is elder abuse and neglect?

      • e WHO-CIG adopted the definition

developed by Action on Elder Abuse (UK)6 in 1995:

“Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expecta- tion of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Elder abuse has serious consequences for the health and well-being of older people and can be of various forms: physical, verbal, psychological/emotional, sexual and financial. It can also simply reflect inten- tional or unintentional neglect. Abuse and neglect are culturally defined phenomena that reflect distinctions between values, standards and unacceptable interpersonal behaviours.

Like any other form of abuse, elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a sig- nificant cause of injury, illness, lost pro- ductivity, isolation and despair. e study “Missing voices: views of older persons on elder abuse” (WHO/INPEA, 2002a) indicat- ed that older people perceive abuse under three broad areas: neglect (isolation, aban- donment and social exclusion), violation (of human, legal and medical rights) and deprivation (of choices, decisions, status, finances and respect).

Modernization, industrialization, an ageing population, urbanization and an increase in the number of women in the workforce may explain increased reports of elder abuse. Prevalence rates/estimates exist only in selected countries and have so far generally been restricted to a few devel- oped nations. Where there are prevalence studies on elder abuse, rates range between 1% and 35% (Pillemer & Finkelhor, 1988; Ruiz Sanmartín et al., 2001; Yan & Tang, 2001), depending on definitions and sur- vey and sample methods. ese figures, however, may represent only the tip of the iceberg, and some experts believe that elder abuse is underreported by as much as 80%. Estimates of the number of elder abuse cases reported range from 1 in 15 cases to 1 in 6 cases. ese low rates may be due to the isolation of older people, the lack of uniform reporting laws and the general resistance of people – including profes- sionals – to report suspected cases of elder abuse and neglect. In developing countries, although there is no systematic collection of statistics or prevalence studies, crime and social welfare records, journalistic reports and small-scale studies provide evidence that abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of older people appear to be widely prevalent.

6.

See also http://www.elderabuse.org.uk/Mainpages/Questions.htm

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