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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
are false positives).40 For example, the national NEAIS report found that financial abuse reports to APS agencies were relatively unlikely to be substantiated (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998). Only 44.5 percent of these reports from 1996 were substantiated, as opposed to 61.9 percent of physical abuse reports, 56 percent of abandonment reports, and 54.1 percent of psychological abuse reports. Only neglect reports (41 percent) were less likely to be substantiated.41
There may be a discrepancy between how an elder person perceives an act and how a third party, including a professional, perceives it (Shiferaw et al., 1994). It has been suggested that individuals who report elder abuse may be influenced by circumstantial evidence that is not confirmed on investigation (Shiferaw et al., 1994). An elder person may consider a financial conveyance to be a reward to someone for services rendered or kindnesses provided, while an outsider may find the gift to be out of all proportion to the nature of the service or kindness. Because professionals are often assigned responsibility to report suspected instances of financial abuse of the elderly, it is important that a professional’s classification of behavior as abusive correlate at least to some degree with that of the older person (Marshall et al., 2000). As discussed, elder persons often refuse to cooperate with investigations triggered by reports of elder abuse or refuse offered services (Dessin, 2000; Kleinschmidt, 1997; Gilbert, 1986; Shiferaw et al., 1994), with one possible explanation being that they do not agree that what occurred was abuse.42 Financial disputes, particularly among family members, tend to involve complicated interactions in which there may be conflicting perspectives on the appropriateness of the actions taken. Professionals reporting elder abuse may fail to evaluate the elder person’s situation adequately (Capezuti et al., 1997). Also, commentators have argued that cultural differences may result in misperceptions of whether a given financial transaction constituted abuse (Brown, 1999; Griffin, 1999; Hall, 1999; Hudson and Carlson, 1999; Marshall et al., 2000; Moon, 2000; Nerenberg, 2000a; Sanchez, 1996; Wilber and Reynolds, 1996).43
In general, it has been argued that what seems to be elder abuse may be more benevolent in nature on close examination (Reis, 2000).
Another study found that 76 percent of the reports of elder abuse referred to an APS unit were not confirmed and, although the exploitation of resources was the most likely type of abuse to be confirmed, only 46 percent of those reports were confirmed (Shiferaw et al., 1994).
Other explanations provided, as discussed above, are shame or embarrassment over their abuse, fear of reprisals by the perpetrator, reluctance to get a family member in trouble, guilt for causing family tensions, or fear of institutionalization (Gilbert, 1986).
For example, cultural differences have been found to exist for Mexican-American, Korean-American, African-American, and Native American communities (Brown, 1999; Moon, 1999; Nerenberg, 1999a).