Elder abuse is a common issue that has plagued older individuals for decades in healthcare and home settings. This abuse has a significant impact on the elder’s quality of life. The risk factors associated with elder abuse will be stated in this paper. Mental health plays a large role in elder abuse and it will be discussed from the side of the victim and the side of the abuser. Also, there will be an example of a screening method used by health professionals to detect elder abuse.
Elder Abuse is defined as an older patient, usually 60 or older, who is neglected and or abused by a loved one, health professional, or a caregiver. Usually in these instances, the elder is dependent on another individual and have certain illnesses. Elder abuse is not limited to only physical abuse. Risk factors including gender, ethnicity, and marital status will influence which elder is more likely to experience elder abuse compared to others. Mental health also plays a big role in elder abuse and the victim and abuser both likely suffer from psychological illnesses.
Elders are not only subjected to physical abuse but they are also exposed to financial abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse (Pillemer et al., 2015). Examples of financial abuse include forcing elders to add individuals to their will, forcing them to give them their pension or retirement money, and in some cases selling the belongings of the elder without their permission. Many elders experience sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes rape, sexual assault, and any other sexual contact that is considered non-consensual (Ananias & Strydom, 2014).
Various risk factors have an influence on whether an individual is likely to experience elder abuse. These factors include ethnicity, environment, gender, marital status, and loneliness. Elders who are nonwhite are more likely to experience elder abuse than individuals who are white. Also, African Americans have a greater risk of experiencing psychological and financial abuse more than any other ethnicity (Wang et al., 2015). Most elders are more likely to be abused if they live with an individual who has an alcohol or drug issue. Women are more likely to experience elder abuse than men overall. Although women are more likely to experience elder abuse, a study done by the World Health Organization reveals that elder men are more likely to be abused by spouses. Elder men are also most likely to be abused by their older children and family. Elder women who are married have a greater risk of experiencing abuse than women who are divorced or widowed. Furthermore, elders who do not live close to their families are more exposed to elder abuse. These individuals are at a greater risk because they resort to trusting in strangers. There are usually no family members around to notice or report the patterns of abuse (Ananias & Strydom, 2014).
The mental health of victims is affected greatly by elder abuse. Men and women who experience elder abuse in any form are at higher risk for experiencing psychological stress. Along with psychological stress, many elders develop Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. These psychiatric illnesses can shorten the life of an elder significantly. It can also devalue their quality of life. Once elders start to experience abuse, some resort to drinking alcohol or using drugs. These traumatizing experiences leave elders to suffer with depression and anxiety for the last few years of their lives. They become consumed with depression and socially isolate themselves from others (Rosen, 2014). While some elders experience only physical abuse, many others experience psychological abuse. Psychological abuse happens when elders are being constantly threatened, insulted, harassed, intimidated, and humiliated. This is another factor that forces them into social isolation (Ananias & Strydom, 2014).
There are a great number of reasons why an individual may subject an elder to abuse. Caregivers, which include healthcare professionals and family members, possess different characteristics that influence their behavior towards dependent elders. Caregivers and health professionals who are younger tend to be more abusive than older caregivers and health professionals. Many of them cannot handle the stress of taking care of a dependent individual. Most caregivers and health professionals themselves have psychological issues. Individuals tend to become abusive because of stress and exhaustion. Some elders are strictly dependent on their caregivers and it can cause lots of stress.
Healthcare professionals have developed many different screening methods and tools that can detect elder abuse once it is suspected. Many of the tools are questionnaires that are given to the elders. Not only do these questionnaires help detect elder abuse but they also help identify elders who are at risk of experiencing elder abuse in the near future. One example of a screening method is the Hwalek-Sengstock Elder Abuse Screening Test. This screening method was created to help health professionals detect the abuse. This screening method consists of 15 questions. The questions give information on whether an elder is lonely or sad often, if they have caregivers that abuse alcohol and drugs, if they feel uncomfortable at home, and if someone close to them has tried to harm them (Ries, 2018).
Elders suffer from physical, financial, sexual, and psychological abuse. Many factors including age, ethnicity, marital status, and loneliness influence whether an elder will be exposed to elder abuse. Elder abuse has a great impact on the elder’s mental health. It leaves them consumed with depression and anxiety for their final years of life.
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