The abuse of older people, also known as elder abuse, is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.
The abuse of older people is an important public health problem. A 2017 review of 52 studies in 28 countries from diverse regions estimated that over the past year 1 in 6 people (15.7%) aged 60 years and older were subjected to some form of abuse. Although rigorous data are limited, the review provides prevalence estimates of the proportion of older people affected by different types of abuse. Data on the extent of the problem in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities are scarce. However, a review of recent studies on abuse of older people in institutional settings indicates that 64.2% of staff reported perpetrating some form of abuse in the past year.
TYPES OF ABUSE
There are many types of abuse:
● Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping. This may also include restraining an older adult against his/her will, such as locking them in a room or tying them to furniture.
● Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older adult. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
● Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older adult’s needs. This may include physical, emotional, and social needs, or withholding food, medications, or access to health care.
● Abandonment is leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning for his or her care.
● Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
● Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen from an older adult. It can include forging checks, taking someone else’s retirement or Social Security benefits, or using a person’s credit cards and bank accounts without their permission. It also includes changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission.
REASONS OF ABUSE
The main reasons for elderly abuse are emotional and economic dependence and changing ethos in society. “Emotional dependence of the abused (46%)” has emerged as the primary reason for the prevalence of elder abuse followed by “economic dependence of the abused (45%)” and “changing ethos (38%)”.
In 2013, “lack of adjustment”, “economic dependence of the abused” and “increasing longevity” were the main reasons for elderly abuse. In 2015 from the point of view of youth, the main reasons behind elderly abuse are property and inheritance disputes and financial problems in the house (53.2% and 46.6% respectively). In society, “Attitudinal and relationship issues” (35.7%) have also emerged as the major reason for the prevalence of elder abuse followed by “Lack of time and patience on the part of the abusers (29.4%)”, “Health/addiction problems of abusers (26.9%)” and “Health/addiction problem of the abused (22.8%)”.
Who Can Help?
Elder abuse will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help. Many older adults are too ashamed to report mistreatment. Or, they’re afraid if they make a report it will get back to the abuser and make the situation worse.
If you think someone you know is being abused — physically, emotionally, or financially — talk with him or her when the two of you are alone. You could say you think something is wrong and you’re worried. Offer to take him or her to get help, for instance, at a local adult protective services agency.
Many local, state and national social service agencies can help with emotional, legal, and financial abuse.
The Administration for Community Living has a National Center on Elder Abuse where you can learn about how to report abuse, where to get help, and state laws that deal with abuse and neglect. Go to https://ncea.acl.gov for more information. Or, call the Eldercare Locator on weekdays at 800-677-1116.
Most states require that doctors and lawyers report elder mistreatment. Family and friends can also report it. Do not wait. Help is available.
HelpAge India is a secular, not-for-profit organization in India, registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. Set up in 1978, the organization works for ‘the cause and care of disadvantaged older persons to improve their quality of life’ HelpAge envisions a society where the elderly have the right to an active, healthy and dignified life. It recently became the first and only Indian organization to be honored with the ‘UN Population Award 2020’ for its exemplary work in the field of aging, relief efforts work during the Covid 19 pandemic and recognition of the organization’s outstanding contribution to population issues and efforts in the realization of older person rights in India.
Currently, there is a projected 138 million elderly in India. HelpAge India voices their concerns, so they can lead secure & dignified lives. It works through 26 State Offices across India and runs numerous programs on-ground, addressing elder needs and advocating for their rights, such as their right to Universal Pension, quality Healthcare, action against Elder Abuse, and many more at a national, state, and societal level with Central and State governments. It advocates for elder-friendly policies and their implementation thereof.
The organization’s programs are focused on direct interventions in the areas of Healthcare (mobile healthcare units, cataract surgeries), Age care (helplines, senior citizen care homes, and daycare centers, physiotherapy), Livelihoods (elder-self-help groups; linkages with government schemes), Disaster Response (e.g. covid19 relief response), as well as Advocacy and Awareness on rights and policies relating to elders.
HelpAge India focuses on policy-related research on aging issues, particularly on urgent concerns like poverty, isolation, and neglect. In emerging economies like India, aging is one of the least understood phenomena. Hence, research is essential to understand the biomedical and social aspects of Ageing. Its understanding would unravel the possible challenges that this would pose to society as a whole and the possible solutions to most of these challenges.
HelpAge India’s extensive experience in the field informs the research efforts of the organization. Efforts are made regularly to understand poverty in old age and how it can be alleviated. The other important aspect in this regard is the safety and security of the vulnerable elderly. Hence, every year, HelpAge India brings out the nuances of elder abuse prevalent in society.
Helpline No. 1800-180-1253
Nightingales Medical Trust
Nightingales Medical Trust is a professionally managed not-for-profit organization based in Bengaluru working for the well-being of the elderly since 1998. The Trust strives to strengthen family bonds and promote community-based support systems and provides a system of affordable and accessible services, thereby setting new trends in age care.
The Trust works towards the welfare of Senior Citizens through various innovative projects focussing on Dementia Care, Active and Healthy Ageing, Elder Abuse, Social Integration, Empowerment, and Capacity Building.
Since 1947 the elderly population has increased from 19 million to 98 million in 2011. This figure is expected to reach 340 million by 2050. Simultaneously there exists a chronic shortage in the services and facilities exclusively for the benefit of Seniors. This trend poses a variety of challenges to the elders and society. It requires the collective efforts of the community, the government, NGOs, and corporate bodies to address these challenges.
VISION: A society where elders are healthy, happy, empowered, and socially integrated.
MISSION: To enhance the quality of life of elders through innovative & appropriate community-based support systems, comprehensive geriatric care with a special focus on dementia and active aging, combating elder abuse, skill development, economic empowerment, public education, advocacy, and capacity-building programs.
How it Began
Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT) as it is known today began its humble journey as Nightingales Home Health Services in 1996 from a garage in Sadashivnagar, Bangalore. A pioneering service back then, the concept of Home Health Services was the brainchild of two people who yearned to make a difference in eldercare.
While interacting with the beneficiaries of home health care, it was realized that apart from health issues, elders also had to deal with loneliness, emotional issues, and financial insecurities. Dr. Radha and Mr. Raja felt that, if necessary facilities to cater to the physical, emotional, financial, and social needs of elders could be created, it could help elders age with dignity. Thus, Nightingales Medical Trust was founded in 1998 to alleviate the problems faced by the elderly.
24 Hour Helpline
Elders Helpline 1090 1st Cross Rd, West of Chord Road 1st Stage, Basaveshwara Nagar, First Floor of Basaveshwara Nagar Police Station, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560079 firstname.lastname@example.org
Elder Line 14567 No. 337, 2nd Cross Rd, 1st Block, RT Nagar,
Bengaluru 560032 email@example.com
Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes.
• Physical Abuse
• Psychological Abuse
• Financial Exploitation
• Neglect and Abandonment
• Sexual Abuse
The trauma of elder abuse can result in premature death, the deterioration of physical and psychological health, destruction of social and familial ties, devastating financial loss and more. Older adults are being mistreated in multiple settings (homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities) by family members, friends and neighbors, professionals, and strangers. The EJI provides several scenarios and red flags to help the public understand the five types of abuse.
An elder abuse case has many stages from the incident through investigation, prosecution, and victim recovery. The EJI seeks to improve outcomes at each stage by providing resources, training, and information, and by promoting a multidisciplinary response to elder abuse.
Abuse of older people can have serious physical and mental health, financial, and social consequences, including, for instance, physical injuries, premature mortality, depression, cognitive decline, financial devastation, and placement in nursing homes. For older people, the consequences of abuse can be especially serious and recovery may take longer.
Individual-level characteristics which increase the risk of becoming a victim of abuse include functional dependence/disability, poor physical health, cognitive impairment, poor mental health, and low income. Individual-level characteristics which increase the risk of becoming a perpetrator of abuse include mental illness, substance abuse, and dependency – often financial – of the abuser on the victim.
On 15 June 2022, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, WHO and partners published “Tackling abuse of older people: five priorities for the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030)”. These five priorities, arrived at through wide consultation, are:
● Combat ageism as it is a major reason why the abuse of older people receives so little attention.
● Generate more and better data to raise awareness of the problem.
● Develop and scale up cost-effective solutions to stop the abuse of older people.
● Make an investment case focusing on how addressing the problem is money well spent.
● Raise funds as more resources are needed to tackle the problem.
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