Why are older adults so vulnerable to abuse?

Elder Abuse and Neglect, Depressed Man

Why Older Adults Are Vulnerable To Neglect And Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse and Neglect, Depressed ManElder abuse, like other types of domestic violence, is extremely complex. Generally a combination of psychological, social, and economic factors, along with the mental and physical conditions of the victim and the perpetrator, contribute to the occurrence of elder maltreatment.

Although the factors listed below cannot explain all types of elder maltreatment, because it is likely that different types (as well as each single incident) involve different casual factors, they are some of the risk factors researchers say seem to be related to elder abuse.

Dementia and Cognitive Impairment

Elders with dementia are thought to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population. Risk factors for this population include the caregivers heightened perception of burden and depressive symptoms, as well as the care recipient’s psychological aggression and physical assault behaviors.

Domestic Violence Grown Old

It is important to acknowledge that spouses make up a large percentage of elder abusers, and that a substantial proportion of these cases are domestic violence grown old: partnerships in which one member of a couple has traditionally tried to exert power and control over the other through emotional abuse, physical violence and threats, isolation, and other tactics.

Personal Problems of Abusers

Particularly in the case of adult children, abusers often are dependent on their victims for financial assistance, housing, and other forms of support. Oftentimes they need this support because of personal problems, such as mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or other dysfunctional personality characteristics. The risk of elder abuse seems to be particularly high when these adult children live with the elder.

Living with Others and Social Isolation

Both living with someone else and being socially isolated have been associated with higher elder abuse rates. These seemingly contradictory findings may turn out to be related in that abusers who live with the elder have more opportunity to abuse and yet may be isolated from the larger community themselves or may seek to isolate the elders from others so that the abuse is not discovered. Further research needs to be done to explore the relationship between these factors.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services, National Center On Elder Abuse