Elderly people at risk of abuse

Juklestad, O., Malmedal, W. K., & Sandmoe, A. (2012). Når eldre blir utsatt for overgrep [Elderly people at risk of abuse] Norwegian only. In M. Bondevik & H. A. Nygaard (Red.) Tverrfaglig geriatri (pp. 371-390). Fagbokforlaget.

This chapter illustrates the different perspectives of elder abuse, for the elderly person residing at home and at institutions, which services provide assistance and support for the elderly and others involved. The perspective of the elderly person is illustrated through several citations and examples of how it feels to be subjected to violence.

How wide spread elder violence is, is uncertain, yet some small Norwegian studies and international research have estimated its prevalence. Different risk factors and situations associated with aging and frailty and the need for individualized assistance are discussed.

The project “Protective Services for the Elderly (PSE)” was established in Oslo in the 1990s and this chapter describes how the PSE team works with elderly persons subjected to abuse. PSE became an actual service in all of the districts of Oslo in 2010. As of 2008, PSE ran a national hotline, a hotline service targeted towards those affected by elderly abuse; including both victims and the personnel that assist them. 

Several Norwegian studies describe how home and community care approaches elderly persons subjected to abuse. These studies discuss how both nursing home management and staff define “abuse” and how they disclose suspected abuse amongst their patients.

The process from when suspicion is first raised till the situation is clarified is often a lengthy process. How home and community care approaches a case depended on the case’s severity, type of abuse and the type of relationship between the suspected abuser and the elderly victim. The challenges experienced when dealing with these complex cases are also described.

The third part of the chapter describes abuse and offensive behavior towards elderly patients at nursing homes. Also described are both Norwegian and international studies. Three key factors are highlighted to explain why abuse occurs at nursing homes: environmental factors, characteristics of the personnel and characteristics of the elderly patients.

The results from one Norwegian study indicate that having knowledge of and educating staff increases their awareness of current and possible abuse and increases their capability of dealing with this type of difficult situation. These factors have also proven important in preventing staff from abusing their patients. In closing the chapter reflects on elderly abuse as an area for growth and for prioritization both on a political and theoretic level.