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The term elder abuse has been defined in many ways. Under international definition, elder abuse is a repeated behavior that either results in physical or psychological abuse to an elderly individual (Rai, 2000, p. 45). Elder abuse generally has two sides to it. The first is the 'abusive' aspect while the other is the 'neglect' part. The abusive component needs to be analyzed in terms of physical interaction of an individual with an elder person while the neglect part is best analyzed in terms of omission of crucial attention or passive involvement of an abuser to an elderly person.
The Australian definition of elder abuse can be best defined by EAPU's definition in EAPU (2008) as "Any act occurring within a relationship where there is an implication of trust, which results in harm to an older person. Abuse can include physical, sexual, financial, psychological and social abuse and or neglect". The Australian perspective is therefore broader in definition. Fundamentally, elder abuse is manifested when there is some sort of abuse by an individual to an adult, causing emotional or physical pain.
The true prevalence of elder abuse is not easy to determine (Tatara, 1999, p. 6). However, current prevalence rates are estimated at between 4-6% (Christoffel, 2006, p. 114). Elder abuse is prevalent among elderly women than in men. Elderly women also constitute a greater part of this population group (elders). It is also established that the elderly male population constitutes the highest majority of neglected victims. The elderly women population is prone to most forms of abuse but about half of the perpetrators (47.5%) of elder abuse are still women. Adult sons and daughters have also been identified to constitute the largest group of abusers (EAPU, 2008).
Elder abuse was inexistent up until the seventies when the European society started documenting their first cases. Later, United States and Canada started taking note of the ill and it later spread to the rest of the developed world. Developing countries are currently following the same trend with most elder organization groups undertaking research and publishing articles of the same. The definition of elder abuse in the European context still incorporates the physical element of abuse which may lead to physical harm and injury. Inclusively, unnecessary pain, injury, loss, a deprivation of human rights and a decrease in the quality of life all constitute the European context of Elder abuse. The Australian definition is no different (Summers, 2006, p. 66). Essentially, Western definition of elder abuse constitutes sexual, financial, verbal, emotional and physical abuse but the influence of culture has a role to play in the way different societies define elder abuse.
In the aboriginal cultures, elder abuse differs from the contemporary western definition because they define elders differently. An elder, in the aboriginal culture, constitutes someone who is spiritually endowed and observes the traditions of the culture. For the aboriginal community therefore, the victims of elder abuse don't necessarily need to be elderly because victims may come from any age group. In these types of communities, mistreatment takes the perspective of the community and the roles of various people in the community. There are specific ways to which people are expected to be treated and if one falls short of that, they are regarded as abusive. The elderly population in such type of communities also commands a lot of respect within the society and a lack of respect towards them constitutes elder abuse. Generalization should therefore be applied when defining abuse in these types of communities. Nonetheless, the assumptions that aboriginal communities share the same values and traditions is misinformed and still adds to the complexity of defining elder abuse in these type of communities. It is therefore difficult to quantify elder abuse in aboriginal cultures (Hrsdc, 2009).
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Prevention of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is largely a societal problem especially with the wrong connotation many people attribute to ageing. The society generally views aged people as an unnecessary responsibility and they often abuse them because they are not prepared to take care of them well (Wold, 2004, p. 20). The reduction of elder abuse prevalence can be largely attained through prevention. It is therefore crucial for those entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the elderly population to be evaluated in terms of their level of responsibility and the commitment they would put into ensuring the comfort of their subjects.
The society at large should also be effectively educated on the best methods available to take care of the elderly. Essentially, training should be provided to those entrusted with such responsibilities, as well as entrenching the awareness of the challenges that come from elderly care in the society. Caregivers should especially be prepared through respite programs to enable them effectively get prepared in dealing with the emotional and physical burdens associated with taking care of the elderly. There is however a need to approach this ill from a non-institutionalized point of view because it is obviously noted that families are not yet ready or equipped to take care of the elderly; at least on a full time basis. Indeed, James (2010) attests that some viable alternatives to relieving family burden entail having: "social settings which meet the needs of the elderly such as public housing for the elderly, foster homes, group homes, etc as well as services that can assist the independence of an older person living in his or her own dwelling. Such community resources include meals-on-wheel programs, home care and chore services, transportation programs, telephone reassurance and friendly visitor programs"
In the same spirit, elder abuse or elder care in totality should be viewed as a general problem that should be adequately prepared for. Quite frankly, elder abuse occurs from the perspective that most victims are not prepared for it and therefore become burdens to their families. This responsibility makes many caretakers crack under the pressure. It is therefore important that adults prepare psychologically and financially for this period in their lives, such that, other family members can have an easy time dealing with their situation. This should be done at individual levels.
Mrs. Jones' Situation
Considering the tight fix Mrs. Jones is in, I would advice her to evaluate options of getting out of the son's home before she is subjected to more physical abuse. The best option she has is enrolling in an elder home, at least as a short-term measure. Elder homes will give her the independence she needs from her daughter in law. In addition, she will still be able to get the necessary medical treatment she needs before she fully recuperates. This type of care cannot be obtained from any family member or even her son because of the level of specialization they offer (Lazarowich, 1991, p. 49).
At the elder home, she will receive the best services from physicians and also interact with her peers, because quite evidently, staying at home does not only subject her to physical abuse but also emotional abuse. At the elder home, she will feel at home because she will interact with people of her age group. This will probably make her happier. An elder home will not only provide her with the services of physicians but also provide access to the best services from dieticians, volunteers, social workers, occupational therapists and the likes (Haworth Press, 1997).
Alternatively, if she is unable to access such homes or be unable to pay for these facilities, she needs to take a bold step of reporting her daughter in law to the relevant authorities. However, she first needs to talk to her son about the situation. Hopefully, he will be in a position to prevent this mistreatment. If any of the above methods fail, she needs to relocate from the home and live with more hospitable relatives.