Worried womanThere are many reasons why elder abuse occurs and these may vary with each incident. In some circumstances, it is a spontaneous act, perpetrated by someone who takes advantage of an opportunity that arises. In other cases, it is premeditated and calculated. In still other situations it is caused by prejudices or by the environment that creates institutional attitudes and approaches.

Domestic abuse and sexual abuse of older people is usually gender related abuse of power, and has many similarities to the experiences of younger women.

In all cases of abuse there is an element of power and control exercised by the perpetrator over the abuser.

Some abuse is caused by ignorance, lack of skills or lack of external support. This is particularly the cases with passive neglect, where there is no intent to harm but is caused by unintentional failures. The impact on the older person however is always significant and is always defined by AEA as abuse, regardless of the motivation or intent of the perpetrator.

Man say quietFinancial abuse/harm within a family situation can be very challenging to address and can need a mixture of tact, sensitivity, understanding and robustness. It is often difficult for an older person to believe, or to admit, that a member of their own family is stealing from or defrauding them.

In institutional settings abuse may be a symptom of a poorly run establishment.

It is likely to occur when staff are inadequately trained, poorly supervised, have little support from management, or work in isolation. Abuse is not linked to staff low pay, as is evidenced by the thousands of care workers who provide excellent care throughout our nations. But it can be linked to inadequate funding of care provision, both by care providers and also by statutory commissioners of care.

Other reasons

There are many academics who invest significant time and energy in researching the nature of abuse and who put forward numerous explanations for why it occurs. Some of these are:

  • the intergenerational transmission of abuse,           
  • stress,
  • dependency,           
  • isolation,           
  • communication difficulties
  • psychological relationship between abuser and victim,
  • poverty,           
  • minority status,           
  • age discrimination,
  • disability discrimination