This study was designed to examine the factors which contribute to the abuse and neglect of the elderly by caregivers in a domestic setting. It is part of a larger project funded by the Administration on Aging (AOA), which evaluated three model programs established to identify, treat, and prevent elderly abuse and neglect. The selection of elder abuse/neglect as a priority area by AOA was in response to the concern of the public and legislators about reports of mistreatment and violence in the older population.
A quasi-experimental research design was used to compare two groups of elders (sixty years and over). The study groups were clients of Elder Home Care Services of Worcester Area, Inc., a large case management agency for the elderly, which also served as an AOA model project site. One group was composed of victims of domestic abuse and neglect, the second of non-abused clients. Both were recipients of case management and social services from the agency.
The results of this study indicate an important need for indepth research that examines the role of family dynamics in elderly abuse and neglect. Given that a great number of the abusers were adult children or spouses, it is likely that these cases involve complex and long-term family problems and unresolved conflicts. One such issue for which there was insufficient information in this study is the possibility that abusers were themselves abused or neglected as children. An examination of family dynamics would also need to identify differences between spouse abuse and abuse by adult children as well as between the various types of abuse.