Preventing Abuse

Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation are largely hidden, shrouded in secrecy and shame. Older adults are often reluctant to reveal incidents of abuse, particularly when the abuser is a family member. Adding to the problem, many health care, law enforcement, financial and ageing service professionals may not fully recognize the nature of some forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation. When recognized, the observer may or may not know where to turn for help. Elder abuse is a growing, serious problem that exists in every community and every neighborhood, whether rich or poor.

While financial abuse is the most commonly reported, many other forms manifest including: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect (as well as self-neglect) and spiritual abuse. Cases of abuse are not always brought before the courts and many mistreatments go unreported. The origin of this silence can be physical when the victim is no longer able to react to the abuse, psychological when the victim is too ashamed or too afraid to report their abuse or sometimes the victim is not even aware of being abused. For example, many financial abuses are discovered by accident or because a third party had concerns. Society itself remains silent about elder abuse when it comes to cultural norms or traditional beliefs like witchcraft or mistreating a widow.

Detecting and preventing elder abuse is challenging. Most of the signs of elder abuse, such as bruises, isolation or malnourishment, can be easily attributed to other causes, which impedes appropriate responses by society and the law. Papers focused especially on evidence based prevention and detection programs and practices are particularly sought.