To become aware of the phenomenon and learn to recognize abuse situations, it is first necessary to identify the players concerned:
Elder abuse is a social problem. Every citizen is urged to act.
This social problem may be due to ageism.
Ageism, a definition
Ageism is related to sexism and racism. It is defined as a set of negative or hostile attitudes, particularly against any elderly person.
In short, ageism includes all forms of discrimination or segregation based on age. It may result from actions that infringe human rights and a form of social marginalization.
Influence of ageism
Ageism can influence the number of cases of elder abuse. In a society where ageism is widespread, elder abuse is more tolerated.
Ageism can be found in every sphere of life. In particular, it can affect the quality of support services for seniors in an abuse situation. It has been observed that seniors do not report the abuse they suffer because they themselves have integrated a form of ageism into their behaviour.
Since the different types of abuse appear in varied contexts, the people likely to witness and detect them also come from different backgrounds.
Thus, any person who suspects or recognizes signs of elder abuse is a witness.
Although every individual is capable of identifying
signs of an abuse situation, some are in a better position to detect them. For example:
- employees of financial institutions who may observe suspicious withdrawals from a senior's bank account;
- institutional caregiving staff who may notice signs of violence on body parts usually hidden by clothing.
Defining the profile of a person likely to abuse an elderly person is complex. Since abuse may occur at the senior's home or in an institution, the abuser may be:
- a family member;
- a spouse or an ex-spouse;
- a child;
- a friend;
- a mere acquaintance;
- a case worker or practitioner;
- a service provider;
- any other person who has a relationship with the senior.
It can be difficult to establish the characteristics specific to abused seniors. You must know that:
- these seniors may come from affluent or disadvantaged backgrounds;
- they may live in their own residence, or in social housing, or be institutionalized;
- like women, men are not sheltered from abuse.
However, some factors can help identify seniors who are victims of abuse: risk factors and vulnerability factors.
Concerning the social and human environment
Some risk factors related to the social and human environment of seniors create conditions conducive to abuse. For example, when:
- family members provide the senior with little care;
- the senior is isolated from family or friends;
- tensions persist between the senior and his or her close relations.
The sexual and cultural identity of seniors can also be a risk factor. Seniors are more likely to suffer abuse if they:
- are homosexual;
- are members of an Aboriginal nation;
- belong to a cultural community.
Vulnerability factors predispose some seniors to be victims of abuse. These seniors:
- suffer from physical health problems;
- have a mental deficiency or disorder;
- have cognitive losses;
- consume psychotropic substances, which affect mental activity;
- lack social contacts;
- are depressive;
- refuse to receive care.
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