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Elder Abuse: An Overview (From Abuse of the Elderly: Issues and Annotated Bibliography, P 12-31, 1989, Benjamin Schlesinger and Rachel Schlesinger, eds. -- See NCJ-121555

NCJ Number
J E Hudson
Date Published
20 pages
A comprehensive definition of elder abuse includes both violence to and neglect of the elderly, their categories according to source (informal or professional caretakers), and type of abuse (physical, psychological, material or fiscal).
Physical abuse includes physical neglect, which is more common than deliberate injury and may have more far-reaching effects if it includes failure to administer medication or provide proper nutrition. Some types of psychological abuse are poor facility condition, grooming neglect, inadequate diet, verbal abuse, and infantization of the victim. Theft of material possession in the third category, while fiscal abuse includes embezzlement, improper charges for services, and fraudulent billing. Family-mediate abuse is characterized by the abnormal expression of the caretaking role in which the needs of a person for physical and emotional support are increased or ignored. Most victims are women, over 65 years old, and functionally dependent. There is usually a history of alcoholism, retardation, or psychiatric illness for either caregiver or victim; a history of intergenerational conflict; and a previous history of related incidents. Seven theories on domestic elder abuse are summarized: family dynamics, impairment and dependence, personality traits of the abuser, filial crisis, internal stress, external stress, and negative attitudes toward the elderly. Many of the same theories are applicable to abuse by professional caregivers; other considerations are political attitudes, resulting in the underfunding, understaffing, and inadequate provision of nursing home and hospital facilities. The implications for social work practice relate to assessment, where a team approach to noticing physical indicators and conducting behavioral observation are key, and intervention by social services, the legal community, and the community as a whole. 46 references.


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