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Older Women's Perceptions of Elder Maltreatment and Ethical Dilemmas in Adult Protective Services: A Cross-Cultural, Exploratory Study

NCJ Number
Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect Volume: 21 Issue: 1 Dated: January-March 2009 Pages: 15-57
Emily Dakin Ph.D., MSSA; Sue Pearlmutter Ph.D., M.S.W.
Date Published
January 2009
43 pages
Eight focus groups composed of older African-American, Latina, and Caucasian women from varying socioeconomic backgrounds examined their perceptions of elder maltreatment and three ethical dilemmas in adult protective service (APS) work: mandatory reporting, involuntary protective services, and the criminalization of elder maltreatment.
Protection over autonomy was favored across all of the focus groups. Across the three scenarios presented to the focus groups, participants expressed the strong belief in the need for various interventions. Prevention and early intervention were also favored across the focus groups. This involved members’ comments about the value of either preventing maltreatment entirely or intervening sufficiently early in the abuse to prevent it from escalating out of control. Respondents in all focus groups emphasized the responsibility of friends and neighbors to become involved in addressing cases of suspected abuse. This theme was also emphasized in regard to family members taking action when elderly family members are being abused. Positive views about social workers generally and APS workers in particular included confidence in their training, knowledge, and ability to be helpful and conduct an appropriate investigation that minimized harm. Negative views of APS included the lack of funding, large caseloads, the risk that they will do more harm than good, and their lack of sensitivity to background and individuality regarding interpersonal problems. Very little direct awareness of elder maltreatment was reported by the focus group of African-Americans of high socioeconomic status, and no direct experience of elder abuse was reported by the Caucasian women of high socioeconomic status. The Latina participants described domestic violence, neglect, and financial abuse as common experiences. The 8 focus groups consisted of 88 women ages 60 and older living in the greater Cleveland area (Ohio). They responded to illustrative case scenarios. 12 tables, 53 references, and descriptions of the 3 scenarios