Older Adult Abuse and Caregiver Stress

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse has been more prevalent in families in recent years for a number of reasons, including the cumulative percentage of older people worldwide, chronic illnesses that render older people disabled, and the greater involvement of people in providing care for the elderly. According to studies, there will probably be more senior citizens in the future, which will result in more caregiving activities (Hines, Malley-Morrison & Dutton, 2012). In the academic work that follows, the environmental viewpoint is used to conceptually build the prevention measures as it relates to caregiving and elder mistreatment by family members. The approach will also improve understanding of the standard of living for seniors across generations. The essay explores the threats of elderly abuse using the ecological ideal.

Elderly Abuse in the Domestic Realm

Studies related elderly abuse suggests that a discrete lack of congruence between the findings on the current issue and addressing the risk factors of ill-treatment. Further generalizations from previous research about the number of abused adults and those at-risk for the various forms of elderly abuse is difficult. Though there is no precise statistics on the predominance of ill-treatment in family caregiving setting exists, studies indicate that in the U.S thousands of old people are treated unfairly (Schiamberg & Gans, 2000). Definitions of elderly abuse vary across research, and there appears to be a consensus that abuse against the elderly involves adverse effects of commission or omission against them. The major categories of maltreatment include physical abuse, financial exploitation or material exploitation, emotive, psychosomatic or rational mistreatment, active and passive negligence, violation of civil rights and self-neglect. Somatic maltreatment involves causing injuries, compulsion or pain. The most prevalent forms of physical abuse include striking with objects, slapping and hitting.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse entails causing emotional pain or anguish intentionally. They include intimidation, humiliation, calling names, frightening along with threatening. In material abuse or financial exploitation, the victim's resources and funds are used illegally. Another form of ill-treatment is active neglect which entails deliberate refusal to meet obligations pertaining caregiving with the aim of harming the victim. It includes behaviors such as intentional abandonment, denial of food, medication, and other health services. On the other hand, passive neglect entails lacking interest in the elderly leading to failure in meeting their needs. The unintentional neglect may be due to ignorance or inability to give adequate care. In the violations of human rights, the elder people are denied the right to make their decisions. It may also involve forcing the person to do something against his or her will (Straus, 1979). Lastly, self-neglect occurs when the elderly endangers their lives by failing to provide adequate self-care through acts such as malnutrition or excessive drinking. The form of neglect differs from the other types of abuse since no second party is involved as the abuser.

Frames of the Ecological Model

The ecological model comprises of four analytical levels that include the macro system, microsystem, exosystem, and mesosystem. Each of the levels operates simultaneously to apprehend the intricacies of the relationships and interactions of human beings. Besides, the levels enable conceptualization of abuse as a multifaceted occurrence which is grounded in the interplay of several factors such as personal, sociocultural and situational.

The Macrosystem

In the environment, the macro system level consists of the socio-historical ideologies along with the cultural values that are embedded within the daily life. The ideology of famililism which is responsible for concealing the family violence experiences. Familialism strengthens the idea that the family unit is private, inviolable and resistant to the dysfunctional processes. Studies on domestic violence indicate that the problems of abuse are often obscured when the experiences vary from the ideological ideal. The effects of familialism are felt in caregiving practices particularly in the older adult abuse domain. In the contemporary society, mistreatment of the older adults remains a hidden issue. It is understandable since the older adults believe in upholding the concept of familialism and they would rather suffer than expose the offenders who are in most cases, close relatives. The denial of elderly abuse even by the victims can be attributed to the bifurcations that exist between experiences of older adult abuse and the ideology of familialism.

Existing studies and Ageism

Existing studies on vehemence in kinfolk offer a description of the discourses of influence along with control that are dominant as sustained in patriarchy. The homilies are convertible to the ill-treatment of the elderly. The cause of ill-treatment of the older adults is the misuse of power and control. The unequal power that exists in the relationship between the caregiver and the victim is the cornerstone for all forms of family violence. Ageism interconnects with the patriarchy ideology. Principally, the aged are vulnerable to abuse because of their gender and age. However, ageism can also transcend patriarchy as indicated by several researchers. Regardless of sex, older men and women are vulnerable to abuse. The ideology of power and control is recognizable in the concept of patriarchy and relegation of the elderly which is sustained through the practices and processes of ageist.

The Mesosystem

Mesosystem describes the interactions amongst the humanity and frequently encompasses microsystem's junctures that include people regularly. In the realm of family violence, the relation dynamics are focused on especially the sociological theoretical frameworks that emphasize situational explanations as well as social learning perspectives. The theory on caregiver stress has been unconventional as the prominent situational reason aimed at abuse against the older adults. Scholars and physicians in the domain of ferocity in families concede that issues such as joblessness, substance abuse, and other situational factors offer incomplete information on the phenomenon (Schiamberg & Gans, 1999). Therefore, the caregiver stress theory analyzes abuse against the elderly partially. To fully understand the problem, it is recommendable to have a knowhow important the primary roots of the situational pressures.

The Exosystem

The exosystem level offers a regulatory structure for the governance along with the organization of the community supports operating at the indigenous level. Exosystem can be regarded as a postponement of mesosystem. Examples of the ecosystem structures include institutions, legislations as well as government agencies that are responsible for the maintenance of order in the society. Adult protection legislation is often used to safeguard the human rights and freedoms of at-risk persons, especially the elderly. At the national level, the Criminal Code has some provisions about violence in the family unit. Such requirements comprise of intimidation and harassment, somatic and sexual abuse, and criminalities that include embezzlement and deceit. In response to the older adult abuse and neglect, only a few provisions are enacted. Additionally, older adults are often reluctant to lay charges when close relatives are involved, and so, the offenders are not charged. Besides, the process between laying charges and prosecution is so long that any changes in the health status of the victim may cause him or her to be unavailable as a witness.

Legislations and Challenges

The depiction of acts of family violence solely is challengeable for the discussion of the elderly, the law only focuses on household relations and abuse rather than neglect. Though some U.S states have explicit legislations on ill-treatment of the old people, most Canadian provinces, especially in Canada, lack specific legislations for older adults (Walsh et al. 2007). Furthermore, most of the judicial systems are ineffective in handling cases related to adults because most of the cases do not fall under the court purview while others are diverted to the health system rather than to the judicial. Most courts lack the capacity to address abuse and neglect cases on the older adults exhaustively. The legislations on adult protection can only be purposeful if the older adults, protocol along with mandate are coherent and the resources required in the implementation process are available. Moreover, the over-reliance on laws protecting adults may reduce the emphases on the model of family violence and could be incompatible with services and programs such as transition houses for the elderly, victim services, and shelters.

The Microsystem

Microsystems describe the surroundings in which human beings can take part directly such as formal and non-formal caregivers, family and friends. According to family literature, all the settings are susceptible to abuse. In the context of older adult abuse, most of the victims fail to report for fear of shame, embarrassment, and retaliation. Cases of violence go undisclosed when the offender is the adult child of the victim. Revealing the abuse can weaken the familial connection which is highly treasured regardless of the victim's fear and despair of ill-treatment. Just like in intimate relationships, the victims are unwilling to accept the fact that a close relative is the offender due to the feelings of love and attachment that are amalgamated with the repugnance caused by the ferocity (Little & Kaufman Kantor, 2002). Analyzing family violence specifically at the microsystem level offers a clear illustration of how the family unit can be an abuse site. In the sociology of domestic violence, several characteristics contribute to violence such as the intensity of interaction and the time spent together. Ironically, the same characteristics reinforce cohesion in the family context. Therefore, both affection and communication can cause unity and violence in the household. Though the perpetrators may be caregivers who are intimately related to the victims, the proximity along with dependence may lead to destabilization of the relationship as well as the reversal of the power and control dynamics.

Intervention Practices and Processes

The conceptualization of the elderly abuse specifically at the mesosystem level from the critical ecological perspective will heighten the knowledge of the techniques the community can use to synchronize amenities along with plans for the victims of elderly abuse and those at-risk. Through public education, communities can raise awareness on issues that relate to elderly abuse. The adoption and application of community-based approaches to address older adult abuse will prevent the cases of ill-treatment (Norris et al. 2013). The plan should incorporate the participatory models that support agency along with the empowerment of the older adults. At the exosystem level, reporting practices should be encouraged. Further, mandatory reporting practices for cases of abuse against the older adults is a desirable protective measure. However, for it to function effectively, the victims should work collaboratively with the government officials. Though the legislative policies cannot solely solve the issues of family violence, they are an integral part of the comprehensive approach that entails prevention strategies, social services sectors, adequate supports, and health services.


The ill-treatment of the older adults has raised concern globally and has caught the attention of various professionals, human rights activists and medical practitioners among others in the late 1980s. Older adult abuse is often considered as the occurrence of actions that cause harm or distress to the elderly within a relationship where trust is expected. The critical-ecological framework offers a tenor that is holistic and beneficial to the conceptualization of violence in the family context across the lifespan. The framework can be merited as a platform for the discussion of the facets of practice, strategies along with theory which are transferrable from family violence to abuse of the elderly. Besides, it offers a coalescing lens that bridges the comprehension between what may appear to be the diverse manifestations of ill-treatment and violence.


Hines, D. A., Malley-Morrison, K., & Dutton, L. B. (2012). Family violence in the United States: Defining, understanding, and combating abuse. Sage Publications.

Little, L., & Kaufman Kantor, G. (2002). Using ecological theory to understand intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. Journal of community health nursing, 19(3), 133-145.

Norris, D., Fancey, P., Power, E., & Ross, P. (2013). The critical-ecological framework: advancing knowledge, practice, and policy on older adult abuse. Journal of elder abuse & neglect, 25(1), 40-55.

Schiamberg, L. B., & Gans, D. (1999). An ecological framework for contextual risk factors in elder abuse by adult children. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 11(1), 79-103.

Schiamberg, L. B., & Gans, D. (2000). Elder abuse by adult children: An applied ecological framework for understanding contextual risk factors and the intergenerational character of quality of life. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 50(4), 329-359.

Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The conflict tactics (CT) scales. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 75-88.

Walsh, C. A., Ploeg, J., Lohfeld, L., Horne, J., MacMillan, H., & Lai, D. (2007). Violence across the lifespan: Interconnections among forms of abuse as described by marginalized Canadian elders and their care-givers. British Journal of Social Work, 37(3), 491-514.

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