Elder abuse is a broad expression used to depict some kinds of harm to the elderly members of the society. It is an act by a person involved in a liaison of trust, which results into harm or agony to an aged person. Neglect is a failure to take action by that person in a liaison of trust with the equal outcome. There are several recognized types of elder abuse: physical, psychological and financial abuse. Abuse can be an isolated happening or constant behavior. A multifaceted issue, elder abuse is often rooted in several factors including state of affairs in the family, caregiver matters and cultural concerns.
Elder abuse is a social injustice as it results in avoidable distress, hurt, infringement on human rights and a general diminished life quality. Consciousness of elder abuse a social justice issue emerged in the 1950s and 1960s when the works of Geneva Mathiasen and Gertrude Hall pioneered the idea of shielding venerable persons. Currently, reports of elder abuse are escalating, and it is a key social justice issue and is a noteworthy feature of family hostility (Miller, 2009). Nevertheless, elder abuse is among the most under reported and under detected problems in the U.S., national official prevalence and occurrence figures are non existent since state statistics differ broadly and there is a lack of standardized structure of reporting.
Elder abuse is a significant social injustice issue in the nation. Studies have become more and more methodical in efforts to clarify the nature, scope, and causes of the issue. However, there is inadequate study on harmonized society responses to elder abuse. There is comparatively limited research that center on multi-disciplinary approaches to this problem involving police partnerships. This paper presents a review literature concerning elder abuse centering on policing and synchronized responses to elder abuse. The paper is an attempt to create a model setting or response system that supports victims of abuse and consequently empower elders against abuse and persecution.
Many scholars have written about the language, milieu and dynamics of this social injustice issue. With no universal language and understanding, the growth of reasonable study and successful guidelines is frustrated. This might offer an explanation as to why the initial literature concerning abuse focused on the need for a universal definition of abuse. Without a concurrence about the definition of elder abuse and its parameters, the evaluation of frequency became challenging from a practical viewpoint. The definitional discourse finally was resolved when a consensus was arrived at concerning the nature of certain manifestations of abuse (sexual, physical, financial and emotional) and how to explain them. Elder abuse has been defined from then as a number of diverse acts of commission and omission. Though scholars have been comparatively consistent from the 1990’s, disparities keep on to surfacing, especially concerning the class of self-neglect. Some scholars in recent times have even categorized self-neglect as a class of abuse.
An awareness of the incapability of communities to report the abuse of elder adults has made the problem a major policy and policing issue. The most broadly adopted reaction in the U.S. being mandatory reporting laws. All states except eight have appointed professionals as mandatory reporters of elder abuse (Payne, 2005). These laws have helped protect the elders and removed the task of choosing whether to report suspected incidents from nurses. However, there are probable drawbacks. Mandatory reporting could put abused elders at increased threat, weaken independence, and is an affront to patient-client privacy. Regardless of widespread implementation, use and enforcement of such legislation, significant debate still rages on whether mandatory reporting is an improvement to the lives of elders and to what degree can it dishearten reporting (Rodriguez, Michaels, Wallace and Mangione, 2006). Additionally, it is unclear on how to arrive at decisions on how and when to get involved in instances of elder abuse. The roots for elder abuse are intricate and it is not possible to know everything concerning potential risk factors in each single case. Legal and ethical questions complicate the issue more particularly for nurses.
In Canada, there is a widespread approach for some level of social responsibility for the elder’s welfare. In some jurisdictions, reporting of elder abuse is mandatory, however precise reporting requirements and retribution for failure to report abuse differ (Spencer, 2006). Though the Canadian Criminal system has the necessary laws to prevent sexual, financial and physical elderly abuse, people are unwilling to sue family members and caregivers. Elder abuse legislation, however have failed to enhance the performance of nurses and other medical practitioners in identifying or reporting abuse. There exists no proof that mandatory reporting is useful in enhancing the treatment of elder abuse. On the contrary, research show that reporting, voluntary or otherwise is considerably less effective than education and awareness. Other parts of the legal structure have also been efficient in combating elder abuse (Payne, 2005). Elder abuse response was initially based on the notion that it was in the best interest of the victims not to involve the criminal justice system. However, it is generally accepted that the police play a key role in response to elder abuse. Police officers play a very vital yet difficult part in elder abuse response. Aside from preventing and successfully intervening, Police officers must have information regarding family dynamics and must be aware of the various forms of elder abuse. They must be able to identify explicit and covert signs of elder abuse. Police officers need to be aware of the actions that are legally required and be familiar with the social services that offer support to victims of elderly abuse.
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Abuse of the elderly remain a hidden social problem and is grossly under reported. This is a challenge to law enforcers. Those who are experiencing abuse could be unable or not willing to report due to mental and bodily weakness, language, literary, or cultural hurdles, seclusion, reliance, and fear of revenge, bureaucracy among other reasons. People who are in a position to report elder abuse also may not report. They may not be aware of the abuse (cannot recognize what constitutes abuse) or they do not know their duty to report the abuse. The may simply not want to get involved.
Social obstacles might exist for the elderly and some segments might be at risk of abuse due to language or cultural obstacles. Elderly people could have difficulties trouble in accessing services, not willing to report the abuse or just cannot identify the actions as abusive. From a cultural outlook, Mizuho (2006) posits that elder abuse in the family context is the most hard to recognize and investigate due to established beliefs of family confidentiality, financial dependence, mistaken grounds of abuse and failure to understand the abuse. Additionally, definitions of what comprise abuse differ across cultures, geographic areas, and dogmas. Different cross-cultural researches lay emphasis on the importance of cultural variances in elder abuse neglecting the significance of having a cross-cultural and multi-sectoral approach based on the view that exposure is largely dependent on the cultural context. Most lately, Kosberg, Lowenstein, Garcia, and Biggs noted the challenges of coming up with a theoretical model that could explain both similarities and differences, in and across different cultures (Tam and Neysmith, 2006).
It is a professional responsibility for nursing practitioners to recognize and intervene in abuse instances. “Elder abuse is not so much assessed as it is detected” (Miller, C.A., 2009, 165). Miller (2009) opines that since elder abuse, inherently, is a concealed problem, review starts with a feeling about its existence. The majority of jurisdictions in the U.S. authorize the reporting of alleged elder abuse to a specific group of professionals; nurses should be conscious of such acts in the region they practice. Evaluation normally commence with the interview of the senior and their caregiver. They should be interviewed individually since majority of elders are embarrassed by abuse. They are afraid that disclosure might end in legal action and potential institutionalization. This can also expose inconsistencies that may further give out a probable abusive situation. The nurse should begin with nonthreatening questions before moving to specific questions as appropriate. The nurse should avoid confrontational questions and he or she should be nonjudgmental in their approach all through the process. The nurse should keep the questions short, simple and direct. The nurse should watch out for contradictions as this may point towards prior abuse or a pattern of hospital hopping. The nurse ought to carry out physical abuse, Psychological abuse and sexual assessments alongside assessment for inadequate care.
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To create a model setting or response system that supports victims of abuse and consequently empowers elders against abuse and persecution various steps need to be taken. The federal government should draw and execute a continuous strategic communications plan for the nation so as inform the public concerning elder abuse. A nationwide framework should also be put into place to increase awareness, sustain research and fund vital services. Age-suitable mental health services should be put into place. An agency or organization should be created to investigate and build up original plan and policies to develop research, information gathering and exposure on elder abuse. Involving the federal executive branch in an appraisal of federal guidelines to better synchronize interventions, preventions and treatment is vital.
Synchronizing the processes of caring for the elderly to prevent abuse, reporting of elder abuse, treatment of the harm sustained by the abuse are the vital issues that must be addressed if the nation is to deal with the mounting problem of elder abuse. The society, caregivers, nurses, police officers and the judiciary all must be in harmony to solve this problem.
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