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Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America
that could be classified as cases of mistreatment. The presence (or absence) of some of these might be predictive of the onset of mistreatment in the future. Also, even though they may not be mistreatment, some of these could affect the quality of life of the older person. Finally, these may be of interest to social scientists studying the relationship between conduct and consequence in older persons and their caregivers.
Risk and Protective Factors
A major purpose of research in elder mistreatment is to understand its causes so that it can be prevented, treated, or managed effectively. This line of inquiry typically begins with the study of factors that increase (risk) or decrease (protective) the probability that mistreatment will occur. As discussed earlier, it is the panel’s view that one of the crucial risk factors involved is the vulnerability of the elder person. More research is needed on risk factors, including vulnerability, and protective factors for mistreatment. This issue is of such significance to the field that Chapter 5 has been devoted to it.
Further basic research on the phenomenology of elder mistreatment is a critical early step in the further development of the field. Such research will lead to a much better understanding of the key elements of elder mistreatment (see Box 2-1), which in turn will facilitate the development of broadly accepted operational definitions and the development of research and clinical measures for these phenomena. Examples of such research include studies of: (1) the kinds of trust relationships that older persons enter into, the other parties involved in these relationships, the foundations of these relationships, and their association with different types of mistreatment; (2) the different types of harms that mistreated older persons may suffer, the interrelationship of the different harms (e.g., relationship of physical to emotional to financial), the severity of harms, their temporal characteristics, and their clinical course; (3) the injurious conduct or omissions of other parties in trust relationships, how they manifest themselves, and their clinical course; (4) the psychological effects of mistreatment, including types of psychological harm, their presentation, and their clinical course; and (5) the circumstances under which harm is most likely to have been caused by the acts or omissions of another person.
The development of widely accepted operational definitions and validated and standardized measurement methods for the elements of elder mistreatment is urgently needed to move the field forward. The field must develop widely accepted operational definitions of the elements of elder