Elder Abuse, a Public Health Issue for Older Adults

Physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse are significant public health issues affecting older adults and occur in various settings.

Helpful Highlights

  • Elder abuse is a significant public health issue for older adults due to several reasons.

  • Given these factors, addressing elder abuse is a critical public health priority for promoting the health, safety, and well-being of older adults.

  • Public health efforts aimed at preventing elder abuse, raising awareness, providing education and training for caregivers and professionals, improving detection and reporting mechanisms, and enhancing support services for victims of elder abuse are essential for addressing this complex issue.

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Vulnerability of older adults

Older adults are often vulnerable to abuse due to factors such as physical frailty, cognitive impairment, social isolation, and dependence on caregivers for assistance with activities of daily living. These vulnerabilities can make older adults more susceptible to exploitation, mistreatment, and abuse.

Impact on physical and mental health

Elder abuse can have serious consequences for the physical and mental health and well-being of older adults. Victims of elder abuse may experience physical injuries, chronic pain, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The trauma of abuse can exacerbate existing health conditions and lead to functional decline, disability, and decreased quality of life.

Increased risk of mortality (death)

Elder abuse is associated with an increased risk of mortality among older adults. Victims of elder abuse may experience premature death due to injuries sustained from abuse, neglect of chronic health conditions, or complications arising from abuse-related trauma.

Underreporting and hidden nature

Elder abuse is often underreported and hidden from view, making it challenging to identify and address. Older adults may be reluctant to report abuse due to fear of retaliation, shame, embarrassment, or dependence on the abuser for care and support. Additionally, caregivers and perpetrators of elder abuse may conceal their actions to avoid detection and legal consequences.

Violation of human rights

Elder abuse represents a violation of older adults' human rights and dignity. Every older adult has the right to live free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and elder abuse undermines these fundamental rights. Addressing elder abuse is essential for promoting social justice, equity, and respect for the autonomy and dignity of older adults.

Economic costs

Elder abuse imposes significant economic costs on individuals, families, healthcare systems, and society as a whole. The costs associated with medical care, legal interventions, protective services, and long-term care for victims of elder abuse can be substantial. Additionally, elder abuse can lead to financial exploitation, resulting in the loss of assets, savings, and property for older adults.

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