Understanding Elder Abuse Risk and Prevention

Saturday, January 17, 2015: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
La Galeries 6, Second Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Aging Services and Gerontology
Symposium Organizer:
David P.R. Burnes, PhD, MSW, University of Toronto
Elder abuse (EA) is increasingly recognized as a public health crisis among policymakers, researchers and clinicians. It represents a major challenge facing a population with increased longevity. EA refers to an intentional act or omission occurring in a relationship of trust, which causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older adult or deprives an older adult of basic needs. EA encompasses emotional/verbal, physical, sexual, and financial abuse or neglect towards an older adult.

Evidence suggests that 1 out of 10 older adults in the United States (U.S.) experiences some form of EA each year. EA is associated with devastating health and psychosocial consequences, including pre-mature death, hospitalization, nursing home placement, financial ruin, chronic pain, psychological disturbance, and poor physical health. With an aging population expected to nearly double over the next 15 years, absolute numbers of EA incidents and associated costs will dramatically increase unless we develop our understanding of risk factors and prevention.

The National Research Council (NRC) has declared that advancing EA risk factor knowledge is a research priority. Risk factors are conditions or characteristics that escalate the probability of abuse or neglect. Accurate risk factor knowledge precedes the development of effective primary and tertiary prevention efforts. Previous EA risk factor research has been methodologically limited and produced potentially misleading information. Further population-based research using standard EA definitional/inclusion parameters and adaptations of established measurement tools to assess EA is required to advance the validity and reliability of risk factor knowledge. Despite the increasingly diverse aging population, we have little knowledge about racial/ethnic differences on issues of elder abuse. Understanding cultural-specific EA risk factors will be critical to the effective design of prevention strategies that meet the needs of a diverse client population.

EA experts advocate for a multi-disciplinary model to intervene on and prevent EA. A multi-disciplinary approach provides the necessary diversity of professional resources and skills to problem-solve the complex, multi-faceted factors underlying EA. Despite a strong rationale for the multi-disciplinary model orientation, empirical evidence has been missing in the literature. Several calls have been made for evaluations of multi-disciplinary EA prevention models.

This symposium will include papers that present the most current and methodologically advanced information on elder abuse risk and prevention available to date. The symposium will begin with risk factor research illustrating the complexity of EA and end with research on an innovative, multi-disciplinary model that is capable of handling this complexity. The first paper uses data from the most methodologically rigorous population-based EA prevalence study conducted to date – New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study – to identify risk factors of elder emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect. The second paper provides a more disaggregated analysis of EA risk factors according to separate ethnic/racial groups. The final paper will present outcomes from the first formal evaluation of a community-based multidisciplinary team model designed to intervene on a prevent EA. Attendees will leave this symposium with a comprehensive, current understanding of EA risk and prevention.

* noted as presenting author
Behind Closed Doors: Ethnicity, Culture, and Substance Use As Risk Factors for Elder Mistreatment
David V. Flores, PhD, LMSW, MPH, CPH, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Jason Burnett, PhD, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; James Booker, PhD, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; Carmel Dyer, MD, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Protecting Victims of Financial Exploitation: The Forensic Center Effect
Adria E. Navarro, PhD, LCSW, Azusa Pacific University
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