. "15. Elder Abuse Intervention: Lessons from Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Initiatives." Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
prevention possibilities with elder abuse on the basis of findings in related, but somewhat more advanced, areas of child abuse and domestic violence. Importantly, this chapter does not address the full extent of the problem of elder abuse or the full range of interventions available to address it; rather, it examines intervention possibilities involving some form of elder abuse based on other forms of family violence. The common denominator for this discussion is that all three populations involve close, interdependent relationships with others, which form the potential circumstances and context for abuse. At the same time, there are many important differences between the contexts and consequences of elder abuse when compared to other abused populations, and these differences have important implications for how one might intervene with the elderly. Nonetheless, lessons derived from progress in child abuse and domestic violence initiatives provide a valid starting point for drawing more attention to elder abuse.
Cynically, one could argue that little progress has been made in addressing the fundamental causes and consequences of the many forms of domestic violence, as well as their effects on children, over the past three decades. These problems seem as serious as ever and major underlying causes, such as abuse of power, inequality, and modeling of violence in the home, remain largely unchanged. Unfortunately, society’s response to these difficult problems has been largely one of detection and management, in which services are given on an individual basis only when it becomes absolutely necessary. Although crisis management makes sense when the intervention is critically needed and highly effective at a particular point in time, it is poorly suited to address fully the dynamics of woman, child, and elder abuse (Wolfe and Jaffe, 2001). Unless additional resources and strategies are brought to bear, the task far exceeds the capabilities of most crisis intervention approaches, which are a necessary but insufficient part of our response to domestic violence.
From a more optimistic perspective, in less than two decades scientific, professional, and activist groups have played a prominent role in recognizing the links between various forms of domestic violence and serious mental health and other issues (Peled et al., 1995). Shelters for battered women and their children have increased dramatically, there are more laws on the books, and there is consensus that family members who are maltreated by other family members must be protected (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1998). Increased interest and understanding by researchers and clinicians in the field of domestic violence make it possible to establish a scientific foundation for implementing prevention and treatment initiatives and public policy to end elder abuse and related forms of violence.
Society’s responses to woman abuse and child abuse, in particular, took more than two decades to turn from preliminary recognition and acknowledgment to more uniform opposition and action. While legal changes