Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention


The problem of elder abuse is one of the major concerns of a coherent society. Regarding the tendency towards the increase in the number of mistreatment cases, the provision of the appropriate help to all victims acquires the top priority for counseling. For this reason, the given paper is devoted to the in-depth investigation of elder abuse as one of the existing social problems. Reviewing the scholarly literature devoted to the issue, the work offers the main aspects of elder abuse such as its definition, topicality, risk factors, type of abuse, and counseling. There are also some gaps in knowledge peculiar to existing research works that are discussed for a better understanding of the theme and direction of future research.

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The increased complexity of the modern world preconditions the emergence of multiple psychological problems in individuals who can experience hardships while coping with different situations. For this reason, counseling acquires the top priority as one of the potent tools to assist these people in their recovery. However, particular risk groups demand specific attention because of their high vulnerability and certain conditions complicating their lives.

The elderly belong to this category as they might face abuse and lack social or other protection. Regarding the gradual aging of the population, the issue of elder abuse acquires the top priority for counseling. It is critical to improve the quality of life of this risk group and protect them from potential threats.

In this regard, the given paper is devoted to the in-depth investigation of the problem of abuse towards older people, its kinds, potential risks, and how counseling can assist this category. The work presents itself with a literature review of scholarly sources researching the theme and outlining central factors that should be considered. After this introductory section, the main findings related to elder abuse and its known forms are presented. The types of violent acts, their classification, pernicious impact on people, and possible solutions are discussed. After the literature review section, gaps in knowledge are reviewed, and a conclusion is suggested.

Literature Review

Problematic Definition and Nature

Despite much attention devoted to the issue, there is still no satisfactory definition of the term elder abuse and neglect. Cogitating about this problem, Harbinson (2017) assumes that to a greater degree it is preconditioned by variations in perspectives on the topic and radically different theorization regarding its nature and causes. Today, it is considered mainly as a social problem that is recognized in government rhetoric and policymaking focused on the protection of this group of population and the provision of the appropriate conditions for its living (Harbinson, 2017). Due to this acknowledgment, much attention is given to the investigation of the issue, its description, and search for efficient solutions to it.

There are multiple definitions of the term. The generalized one states that elder abuse is intentional or unintentional harm, neglect, or exploitation of an old person by caregivers, their trusted individuals, or himself/herself in various settings (Jackson, 2017). It includes a certain controversy as there are debates if a trust relationship can constitute elder abuse and should be considered by counselors and other specialists working with this group of people (Jackson, 2017). However, the majority of researchers accepted the fact that violent actions performed by any person can be classified as abuse (Jackson, 2017). It means that there is a need for work with all individuals who can be in contact with a victim of abusive behavior.

Rise of the Problem

The topicality of the selected problem to the sphere of counseling is evidenced by several factors. Today, 13% of the population of the USA is age 65 and older; by 2030 this group will comprise about 20% (Jackson, 2017). It means that older people will become a significant social group that will have multiple problems and demand assistance because of their vulnerability, health problems, and the lack of social protection (Flynn, 2017). The decrease in the quality of their lives will pose a significant threat to the health of the nation and undermine the state’s further evolution (Flynn, 2017). For this reason, the recognition of the problem and the provision of qualified help becomes a central concern for counseling.

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There is another factor evidencing the topicality of the issue. Reports from the World Health Organization, United Nations, and other bodies that have access to data related to the problem indicate a significant number of cases of mistreatment towards older people (Pillemer, Burnes, Riffin, & Lachs, 2016). About 1 in 60 people 60 years and older face violent behaviors and other forms of abuse (Pillemer et al., 2016).

For this reason, it is now accepted as a serious and extensive problem that demands the attention of caregivers, social workers, policymakers, and counselors (Pillemer et al., 2016). An efficient solution to this problem becomes a key to the successful development of the global society and its adherence to humanistic qualities.

Risk Factors

Regarding the tendency towards the increase in the number of abused older people, the determination of these cases and their treatment acquire the top priority in the sphere of counseling. However, this process can be complicated by the fact that some victims might conceal mistreatment because of the fear or lack of awareness regarding the problem (Dong, 2014). That is why researchers outline certain aspects that should be considered risk factors and indicate a need for an increased level of attention while working with people belonging to this group. Poor mental and physical health is one of the main issues that might precondition the emergence of violent behaviors (Dong, 2014). The elderly with serious health problems become helpless and suffer from abuse more than all other categories.

Financial dependence is another aspect that should be considered by specialists while working with the elderly. It is taken as a strong risk factor as it contributes to the decreased independence of a person, his/her necessity to adapt to the demands of caregivers, and accept different forms of abuse or violent behavior (Wang, Brisbin, Loo, & Straus, 2015). By the statistics, 1 in 4 older people who experienced abuse are financially dependent on abusers (Wang et al., 2015). In can also precondition the unwillingness to report such cases because of the fear of being abandoned or refused in acquiring financial help (Wang et al., 2015). This situation is a significant problem as it complicates treatment and works with this category of patients.

Functional dependence or disability is another factor impacting the emergence of elder abuse. Under the latest reports, among all patients who addressed counselors, 40% were physically dependent on their caregivers or individuals who comprised their inner circle (Isaac, Cornelison, & DeJong, 2014).

For this reason, specialists working in the sphere of counseling are recommended to devote special attention to the state of patients and their functional state as it can be one of the central indicators of potential abuse (Isaac et al., 2014). In multiple cases, victims do not ask for help because of their inability to perform some actions without assistance (Isaac et al., 2014). Under these conditions, the determination of such cases becomes possible only regarding the efficient work of a counselor.

Finally, alone aged people comprise another risk group as they become potential victims of manipulators or financial speculators. The fact is that the lack of protection traditionally provided by relatives contributes to the increased vulnerability and problems in communication with strangers or unknown people (Teresi et al., 2016). Moreover, lonely older people unconsciously desire communication and socialization which means that they willingly enter conversations and can become deceived. For this reason, the absence of a family is a significant risk factor that should be considered by counselors who work with this category of patients and is focused on the provision of the needed assistance.

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Types of Abuse

Today, specialists figure out several main types of elderly abuse. These are physical, psychological, financial, sexual abuse, frauds, health care fraud, neglect, or abandonment (Dong, 2014). All of these categories can be classified as those preconditioning the emergence and development of psychological traumas and disorders (Kress, Haiyasoso, Zoldan, Headley, & Trepa, 2018). A pernicious impact of stressors belonging to these sorts of abuse is evidenced by the fact that the elderly who have experienced violent behaviors of any type demonstrate symptoms of serious psychological trauma along with the significant deterioration of their health (Kress et al., 2018). For this reason, there is an obvious need to work with every kind of abuse using specific methodology and approaches recommended by counselors.


Regarding the devastating impact, abuse has on both the mental and physical health of an older person, counseling becomes a potent tool that can be used to assist victims. The modern framework for specialists training presupposes their ability to recognize all factors and symptoms mentioned above and select the most appropriate intervention (Ali & Sichel, 2014). Counselors can help vulnerable elderly persons to resolve the tension, cope with trauma caused by violent behavior or mistreatment, and provide resources needed for safety (Chavez-Korell, Benson-Florez, Rendon, & Farias, 2013). Sessions can also help perpetrators to reconsider their attitudes to victims and understand the impossibility of actions that cause damage to old peoples physical or mental health.

Gaps in Knowledge

In such a way, it becomes evident that the modern sphere of counseling devotes much attention to elder abuse and its in-depth investigation. Numerous research articles shed light on various aspects of this issue. However, there are still gaps in knowledge regarding the problem. One of the first areas that should be investigated is the correlation between personal and leadership qualities of a person and the probability of his/her being abused as a strong character and will be considered aspects protecting people from traumas (Shullman, 2017). Additionally, the degree to which the climate within a family and relations with all members impact victimization and precondition the emergence of misbehavior cases should be studied to improve the comprehension of the issue.


Altogether, elder abuse is one of the major social concerns of the modern world. Statistics show that 1 in every 6 older people have a negative experience of being abused. For this reason, it is critical to continue investigations of the issue with the primary aim to determine all factors impacting the problem. Moreover, counseling becomes one of the most efficient tools that can be utilized to help abused people cope with traumas.

The modern training includes the focus on risk factors, signs of abuse, and its types for a specialist to recognize them and suggest measures that can be used to avoid the further development of the undesired state and ensure recovery, improved quality of life, decreased level of stress.


Ali, A., & Sichel, C. (2014). Structural competency as a framework for training in counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 42(7), 901-918. Web.

Chavez-Korell, S., Benson-Florez, G., Rendon, A., & Farias, R. (2013). Examining the relationships between physical functioning, ethnic Identity, acculturation, familismo, and depressive symptoms for Latino older adults. The Counseling Psychologist, 42(2), 255-277. Web.

Dong, X. (2014). Elder abuse: Research, practice, and health policy. The 2012 GSA Maxwell Pollack Award lecture. Gerontologist, 54(2), 153-162. Web.

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Flynn, L. (2017). All about elder abuse. Vancouver, Canada: Mediscript Communications.

Harbinson, J. (2017). Contesting elder abuse and neglect: Ageism, risk, and the rhetoric of rights in the mistreatment of older. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.

Isaac, C., Cornelison, J., & deJong, J. (2014). An investigative tool for detecting elder abuse. Academic Forensic Pathology, 4(4), 525-531. Web.

Jackson, S. (2017). Understanding elder abuse: A clinician’s guide. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Kress, V., Haiyasoso, M., Zoldan, C., Headley, J., & Trepa, H. (2018). The use of relational‐cultural theory in counseling clients who have traumatic stress disorders. Journal of Counseling and Development, 96(1), 106-114. Web.

Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Riffin, C., & Lachs, M. (2016). Elder abuse: Global situation, risk factors, and prevention strategies. Gerontologist, 56(2), 194-205. Web.

Shullman, S. (2017). Leadership and counseling psychology: Dilemmas, ambiguities, and possibilities. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(7), 910-926. Web.

Teresi, J., Burnes, D., Skowron, E., Dutton, M., Mosqueda, L., Lachs, M., & Pillemer, K. (2016). State-of-the-science on prevention of elder abuse and lessons learned from child abuse and domestic violence prevention: Toward a conceptual framework. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 28(4-5), 263-300. Web.

Wang, X., Brisbin, S., Loo, T., & Straus, S. (2015). Elder abuse: An approach to identification, assessment and intervention. CMAJ, 187(8), 575-581. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 17). Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/elder-abuse-its-potential-risks-and-prevention/

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"Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention." StudyCorgi, 17 Jan. 2021, studycorgi.com/elder-abuse-its-potential-risks-and-prevention/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention." January 17, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/elder-abuse-its-potential-risks-and-prevention/.


StudyCorgi. "Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention." January 17, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/elder-abuse-its-potential-risks-and-prevention/.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention." January 17, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/elder-abuse-its-potential-risks-and-prevention/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Elder Abuse, Its Potential Risks and Prevention'. 17 January.

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