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Statute Definitions of Elder Abuse

NCJ Number
Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect Volume: 13 Issue: 4 Dated: 2001 Pages: 39-57
Jeanette M. Daly R.N.; Gerald Jogerst M.D.
Date Published
19 pages
This article discusses elder abuse definitions in State statutes and in current practice, education, and research.
There is a lack of consistency in how elder abuse is defined within the field of adult protective services (APS) and between APS and health care professions. With these variations in terms and definitions, cross-study comparisons are difficult and comparison of State elder abuse data is hindered. In 1974 Congress mandated a protective services program for adults that provided a “system of preventive, supportive, and surrogate services for the elderly living in the community to enable them to maintain independent living and avoid abuse and exploitation.” Through this mandate, the statute definitions of elder abuse were established. The term elder abuse was first used in education in 1984 to search for aged abuse and elder neglect in MEDLINE. Research has defined elder abuse as aggressive behavior or action against an older adult. Elder mistreatment is defined as destructive behavior that is directed toward an older adult. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in elder abuse definitions found in the State APS statutes. The State laws analyzed addressed elder abuse in domestic settings and typically were implemented by State adult protective service programs/agencies or State aging agencies. The initial search included the specific statutory citation for each State’s statute as obtained from the National Center on Elder Abuse Web site. Because there was much variability in the APS statutes, comparisons were difficult. The results revealed that abandonment was the one term of the eight codes identified for this study that was used uniformly throughout the statutes. For the definitions of emotional abuse, exploitation, neglect, and physical neglect, 28 different terms were used. In addition to different concept definitions, the placement of definitions was not uniform. It is clear that some terms are used more frequently than others to describe a particular type of abuse. Further analyses of the statutes definitions are warranted. 5 tables, 31 references, 2 appendices