Around 1 in 6 older people (141 million people) experienced some form of abuse in the community during the past year.
If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of people affected in their communities will increase rapidly due to population ageing, growing to 320 million victims by 2050.
High rates of abuse in institutions
Rates of elder abuse in institutions, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, are likely to be higher than in communities with 2 in 3 caregivers reporting committing abuse in institutions in the past year.
While many institutions work hard to offer residents a good quality of care, evidence suggests that an inadequate number of care workers, difficult working conditions (physical demanding and emotionally testing), low pay, and inadequate training on the human rights of older people can contribute to rates of elder abuse in institutions.
What is elder abuse?
Abusive acts in institutions can include:
physically restraining patients depriving them of dignity (by leaving them in soiled clothes, for instance) intentionally providing insufficient care (such as allowing them to develop pressure sores) over- and under-medicating residents emotional neglect and abuse.
Elder abuse can lead to physical injuries, ranging from minor scratches and bruises to broken bones and disabling injuries; and serious, sometimes long-lasting, psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety.
The consequences of abuse can be especially serious for older adults placing them at higher risk of nursing home placement and hospitalization.
Who is at risk?
Risk factors in communities can include gender (women are often at a higher risk of abuse) poor social support sociocultural factors such as erosion of the bonds between generations of family conflicts over inheritance financial inability to pay for care.
In institutions, there is a higher risk of abuse when staffing levels are insufficient, staff are poorly trained and supported, and there are inadequate care standards and no quality control.
Too little attention is given to preventing elder abuse, especially in institutions. Raising awareness, screening staff properly, and adequate training is clearly essential.
In addition, implementing care guidelines, mandatory reporting of abuse to authorities, and offering psychological support for both abusers and abused can help.