Differences in Risk Factors and Abuse Patterns in Familial Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is generally defined as abuse that occurs in relationships where there is an expectation of trust (World Health Organization, 2002). The scope of what constitutes elder abuse is still somewhat contentious and varies between countries and even jurisdictions, with some conceptualisations viewing formal care relationships as ‘relationships of trust’ whereas others define this as a consumer relationship due to the contractual nature of the interaction. Irrespective of the delineation of what constitutes elder abuse, there is recognition that elder abuse is most commonly perpetrated by family members. In Australia, this has led to elder abuse increasingly being recognised as a manifestation of domestic and family violence. Even within elder abuse in family contexts, there can be different factors at play that drive the abuse. Data collected by an elder abuse helpline in Queensland was analysed to compare risk factors and patterns of abuse where the abuse was perceived to be related to carer stress (CS group), intimate partner violence (IPV group) or other elder abuse (Other). While all three groups reportedly experienced high levels of psychological abuse, the findings revealed the following differences in patterns of abuse: older people in the CS group were reported as experiencing much higher rates of neglect; psychological, social and sexual abuse was reported more frequently for older people in the IPV group; and financial abuse was most common in the Other group. Between-group differences were also found for victim gender, age, capacity impairment and dependence rates, and the duration of the abuse. Knowledge of similarities and differences in risk factors and patterns of abuse may be useful to consider when formulating intervention strategies with clients who are experiencing elder abuse. However, Australia is still developing its knowledge base around elder abuse and the triggers in our context and these results must be further tested before being used to inform large-scale responses to elder abuse.
Anna Gillbard has degrees in psychology and social work. Anna works in the UnitingCare’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit responding to elder abuse calls, undertaking research and data development. This presentation is grounded in practice, backed by data and embedded within the broader context of national initiatives.