The abuse of the elderly people is one of the problematic issues encountered in society. The elder abuse includes the systematic and long misconduct towards the older people by the person, who takes care of a senior man or woman. The aforementioned type of abuse is characterized by deliberate causing of physical or psychological pain, and inflicting sufferings and injuries to an elderly person. Moreover, it may include unreasonable restriction or a full deprivation of the necessary care and treatment, which is required to support the mental and psychological health. The given research paper will discuss the problem of elder abuse, its history, current issues and forecasts.
The society does not accurately define when the elder age begins. Thus, discrepancy in old age definition complicates the comparison of the research results in different countries. The general classification of the people of the senior age in the European countries usually includes people of 60-65 years old. However, the social concept based on a retirement age is not important for the majority of the developing countries. The functions, attributed to the people during lifetime, are more significant in defining the elderly. Thus, the senior age is the period of life when people cannot fulfill their functions both in a family and at work due to the physical weakening (American Psychological Association, 2013).
The senior people are afraid to inform the family members, friends, or corresponding legal bodies about the cases of abuse. There is the lack of the data about the problem in the developed countries, and nearly no information about elderly abuse in the developing countries. The mistreatment of the senior people can result in severe effects, which start from several bruises and end with serious injuries. The abuse may lead to disability and psychological consequences, including depression and fears. The number of cases of elder abuse is expected to increase due to the fast ageing of the population in the majority of the world countries. By the forecasts, the population of people at the age of 60 and above will double by the year 2025, reaching 1.2 million people worldwide (Jackson & Hafemeister, 2013).
Background and History of Elder Abuse
For the first time, the elder abuse was described in the British scientific magazines in 1975 as the cases of beating of a grandmother. The U.S. Congress discussed the problem from the social and political points of view. Later, it was thoroughly researched by the number of scientists and defenders of the rights of the elder people all over the world. Since the 1980s, the scientific researches of the elder abuse have been conducted in the majority of the world countries. Although the abuse of the senior population was originally identified in the developed countries, the separate evidence and cases from the developing countries showed the universality of the phenomenon (Dixon et al., 2010).
The elderly abuse can be defined as the commission of the single or repeating acts or a lack of appropriate actions in the relationships between senior people and their caregivers. The major element is that mistreatment causes harm or stress to the elderly people. The acts of the elder abuse include the physical violence, forced sexual contacts, emotional and psychological offences, neglect of obligations, as well as illegal usage of the finances and property of a senior person (APA, 2013).
There are three categories of elder abuse. First is the household abuse, which usually happens in the houses of elderly people and their caregivers. A relative, a close friend or a paid sitter can become an offender. Second category is abuse in the nursing homes, shelters or medical and social organizations. An abuser is imposed with a financial or contractual obligation to care for the elderly person. Third case is negligence, which is a behavior of the elderly person, which threatens his or her own health and safety. It includes the cases when a senior person refuses or cannot provide oneself with food, water, clothes, a shelter, personal hygiene, medicines and security measures (Dixon et al., 2010).
Household or family abuse is the most wide-spread type of elder abuse. It can be negligence which is expressed, for example, in unwillingness to provide appropriate food, clean clothes, and a safe and convenient place in the house. Moreover, the caregiver can refuse access to good medical care, personal hygiene and possibility of social communication for an elder person. The abuse from the side of a spouse can take the different forms, such as physical, moral or sexual harm, financial exploitation or absence of attention. Spousal mistreatment can be present throughout the family life or occur later in marriage. The risk factors promoting the elder abuse include home violence, when a spouse becomes an abuser. Moreover, personal problems of a caregiver increase the chances of grown up children insulting the senior relatives, Finally, social isolation is a form of abuse, when the family members try to separate the senior relatives from the other people in order to avoid the spread of the information on elder abuse (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2013).
Despite the absence of extensive documentation, the assessment of the financial and human expenses connected with the abuse of elderly people is rather considerable. The direct expenses of abuses are numerous and various. They include the prevention and intervention, including rendering of services, criminal procedures, care in medical institutions, educational and research programs. The indirect costs and human loss connected with the abuse of elderly people is expressed in the reduction of productivity, deterioration of quality of life, moral sufferings, mistrust, drop of self-esteem, disability, and premature death (APA, 2013).
The mistreatment of the elderly people causes a number of the long-term physical and psychological problems with health, including irreversible physical traumas, medicinal and alcoholic dependence, weakening of immune system, the chronic diseases, and death. Moreover, the victims can start causing harm and feeling indifference to oneself, experience depression, the feeling of fear and constant alarm as well as have the tendency to commit suicide. In certain cases, the elder abuse can become the manifestation of such problems as poverty, inequality in society and other violations of human rights.
Current and Future Issues of Elder Abuse
At present, the non-governmental organizations spread information and implement educational programs aimed at the increase of awareness among the elderly people about the problem of abuse in family or in nursing homes and hospitals. The programs describe care for the elderly people and promote the increase of understanding and knowledge about abuse types and outcomes. In some countries, the growing understanding of the problem of elder abuse and change of social policy caused the introduction of new legislation regarding the elderly abuse. In fact, laws evaluate the actions as a crime, and increase in punishments for certain misconducts concerning elderly people. The resolutions and political measures supplementing the state laws and creating the systems of compulsory evaluations were taken in certain cases. In some countries, the legislation for the protection of elderly people against abuse is either too limited or absent in general. In majority of the countries, the elder abuse is not considered to be a serious problem and no measures are taken for its resolution (Dixon et al., 2010; National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2013).
The solution of the problem of elder abuse is focused on the increase of knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon. The efforts find a broad reflection in mass media with reports considering serious acts of abuse and cases of inadmissible negligence. The media plays an extremely important role, attracting the public attention and stimulating the appropriate measures of the policy in the struggle with elderly mistreatment. The initial step of the WHO in the development of the global strategy aimed at prevention of elder abuse in the majority of European countries and the USA. The expansion of knowledge by the workers of primary medical and sanitary help in the area is the most important step in the prevention of elder abuse (Jackson & Hafemeister, 2013).
The future prospects of the solutions to the problem of elder abuse should be based on the development of educational programs, launched for the assessment and identification of the elder abuse and negligence cases. Moreover, the acceptance of effective measures, which are designed for lawyers, politicians, judicial performers, social workers and other experts, is the following step. Special materials, including the monitoring methods, should be developed for the definition of misleading situations, protocols for the transfer of affairs for judicial proceedings, and also educational sets for caregivers. The distribution of information should extend by means of factual bulletins, educational videos and programs, and also reference books and websites. The national telephone lines aimed at the acquisition of knowledge about elder abuse and available means for the spread of information among the elder people should be established (APA, 2013)
At present, there is insufficient actual data about the efficiency of the preventive actions. The support of caregivers and professional awareness about the problem of elder abuse can be effective in the struggle with the social problem. Moreover, the available data allows assuming that the services on the protection of adults and visits at home by police and social workers can actually lead to the adverse effects, aggravating elder abuse. The sectors of social security, education and health care can promote the decrease of elder abuse problem. At the global level, data about the improper treatment of the senior population and the methods of its prevention is limited. At the same time, the scales and the character of the problem have been revealed recently. However, the majority of risk factors remain disputable, and the effective measures for the prevention of elder abuse have not been identified (Jackson & Hafemeister, 2013).
The problem of elder abuse has become urgent recently due to the sharply increasing number of the senior population in the world. The recommendations of necessary measures in the protection of the senior population rights include the development of methods for assessing and monitoring the cases of elder abuse. Secondly, distribution of the research methodology and the scientific journals in the field of elder caregiving is required. Also, the database about the abuse of the senior people is the step towards solution. Finally, mobilization of civil society by means of the increase of knowledge of widespread scales of abuses concerning elderly people is paramount in solving the problem.