Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Elder Abuse and Neglect - Definitions And Types Of Abuse And Neglect, Incidence And Prevalence, Victim And Perpetrator Characteristics, Prevention And Intervention

Elder Abuse and Neglect - Definitions And Types Of Abuse And Neglect

age social mistreatment level hudson figure

Since the definitions used by researchers and in state statutes vary, one instance of agreement is presented. In 1988, a three-round Delphi study was conducted with a nationwide panel of elder mistreatment experts to reach agreement on the types of elder abuse and neglect and on the definition of each type (Hudson, 1991). These researchers, clinicians, educators, and policy makers produced a taxonomy of elder mistreatment (Figure 1) and theoretical definitions of the eleven categories identified (Figure 2). Figure 1 SOURCE: ¶ Margaret Hudson. Reprinted with permission. Further, the panel made decisions about four previously debated issues. First, that elder mistreatment is not limited to domestic violence, but also includes mistreatment of older adults by persons in professional and business roles that connote trust, such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, and nurses' aides. Second, elder neglect and abuse are distinct forms of elder mistreatment that would be most effectively studied separately. Third, intentional and unintentional forms of both elder abuse and neglect exist, and thus, intentionality is not an essential characteristics of either but, rather, an intervention issue. Last, dependence of the elder on the abuser or neglector is not an essential characteristic of either form, although it is commonly Figure 2 Theoretical Definitions SOURCE: ¶ Margaret Hudson. Reprinted with permission. seen among victims of elder neglect (Hudson, 1991).

The five-level taxonomy produced was based on perpetrator behaviors. Level I, violence involving older adults, fits elder mistreatment into the scheme of violence phenomena while distinguishing it from violence involving persons of other ages. Level II, which is based on the relationship between perpetrator and victim, differentiates elder mistreatment from two closely related phenomena that involve harm to older adults—self-mistreatment and crime against elders by strangers. Level II also broadens the concept of elder mistreatment beyond domestic mistreatment to include professional mistreatment of elders. Level III is based on the manner in which the harmful behavior is carried out, that is, by commission (abuse) or omission (neglect). Level IV, based on the purpose of the destructive behavior, promotes awareness that elder abuse and neglect occur intentionally and unintentionally, and conveys the experts' belief that detection can occur without the determination of intent or placement of blame. Level V focuses on the specific type of harmful behaviors involved in elder neglect and abuse. Categories include theoretically distinct behaviors that often are not mutually exclusive in actuality, so that a case may fit into more than one category. For example, the adult son who threatens and beats his mother while stealing her money fits into the categories of physical, psychological, and financial abuse; an adult daughter who has the needed resources but allows her frail mother to unsafely live alone in an unmaintained home and to become isolated, malnourished, and injured from falling fits into the categories of physical, social, psychological, and financial neglect (Hudson, 1991). As the taxonomy levels proceed from general to specific, definitions of the more specific forms of neglect and abuse build from the general ones.

Elder neglect is the careless, indifferent, or malicious lack of attention by a designated or implied caregiver that results in harm from an elder's basic human needs not being met. This lack of action, or omission, makes neglect less tangible and more amorphous than elder abuse, because abuse is typically seen as an act of commission, or the misuse of power and/or the use of force, such as beating, shoving, confining, threatening, or belittling an elder. Because neglect is a lack of action, it is often not recognized until its cumulative effects are seen on the elder. Acts of neglect range in severity from intermittent inattention to an elder's daily fluid intake to total abandonment of an incapacitated elder. While the dynamics of elder neglect are different from those of abuse, the effects on the elder can be equally dire—premature death that is due to malnutrition, dehydration, untreated medical conditions, hypothermia, imposed immobility, and so on—rather than death from injuries due to assault. Although neglect is the most common form of elder mistreatment, surprisingly, it is also the form that has been given the least attention by researchers. Therefore, we know far less about elder neglect per se than we do about elder abuse. While both healthy and frail elders of various ages are abused, it is frail elders of advanced age—eighty years and older and dependent on others for their basic care—who are most at risk for neglect.

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