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Caregiver Stress Versus Problem Relatives

The elderly people are the most recent group to have been identified as being at risk of victimization within the family. However, a review of the literature indicates little consensus as to who among the elderly is most likely to be a victim. The lack of firm findings stems in large part from frequently noted inadequacies in previous research on elder abuse: reliance on professional reports of abuse cases rather than interviews with victims; use of samples drawn from agencies, rather than general population surveys, and failure to use control groups.

 The present study was conducted to overcome some of these weaknesses. Case of elder abuse were identified in a large-scale random sample survey in the Boston area. Control cases were randomly selected from remainder of the sample and analysis were conducted which compared the two groups.

 First to what extent is the dependence of elderly victims a risk factor for elder abuse?  We have labeled this the “caregiver stress” hypothesis.

 Second, to what degree are the deviance and dependence of the abusers – those we have termed “problem relatives” – risk factors?

 As a result, the study found substantially more support for the idea that abuse is associated with personality problems of the caregiver.


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