should be more easily available to a family or individual before a crisis or tragedy occurs.
Connected to this strategy of earlier family assistance for all forms of domestic violence must be the acknowledgment that intervention after the fact is seldom satisfactory to the individual, the family, or the community. The realities of adult protection, on the one hand, require firm guidelines and legal authority. Individual autonomy and special needs, on the other hand, profit from stability, continuity of caregivers, and a supportive family and community environment. Unfortunately, by the time official attention is drawn to the problem (due to the victims or others’ reluctance to seek help, failure of family members or professionals to identify a burgeoning problem, offences that fall below the threshold for official response, etc.), it may be very difficult to reverse some of the patterns that have formed.
To combat the negative connotation associated with treatment and prevention services, policy planners need to study ways to make the available services more attractive to the elderly and those who care for them. As one illustration, prevention and early intervention efforts based on social learning theory have shown considerable promise in addressing the contributing factors related to child abuse; because child and elder abuse share some fundamental features (e.g., a dependent, caregiving relationship), these approaches seem well-suited for elder abuse prevention as well.
Emerging changes in public policy, legislation, and service delivery illustrate a commitment to finding ways to reduce the prevalence and harmful effects of all forms of domestic violence. Still, strategies that address the issue at a broader level need to be more fully developed and evaluated. Such strategies must take into account the large number of factors that influence the likelihood of elder abuse, as well as factors that promote proper care and well-being.
Significantly, there are established precedents for addressing complex public health issues facing children and adolescents, such as domestic violence (Wolfe and Jaffe, 2001), substance abuse and peer violence in schools (Cunningham and Henggeler, 2001; Farrell et al., 2001), and personal safety and injury prevention (Tremblay and Peterson, 1999). These approaches, adopted primarily for known health and behavior problems among youth, hold considerable promise for the elderly as well, because they recognize that change occurs through finding positive ways to communicate messages about healthy families and healthy relationships. Alternatives to violence can be activated in each community in a manner that stimulates interest, informs choices, and promotes action to decrease violence and abuse in the lives of children, youth, and families.