achieve the proper level of participant protection while enabling important research involving older and vulnerable adults to move forward.
An adequate long-term funding commitment to research on elder mistreatment must be made by relevant federal, state, and private agencies to support research careers and to develop the next generation of investigators in the field. Knowledge about elder mistreatment will advance only if its importance is recognized by policy makers and funding agencies, if stable research support is provided, and if useful theories and methods are successfully extrapolated from relevant disciplines and adjacent fields of research.
Recognizing that elder mistreatment crosses categorical boundaries in both health research and social science research, federal funding agencies (e.g., the National Institute on Aging, the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research, and the National Institute of Justice) should work collaboratively to promote research on the abuse and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, including older persons as well as younger adults with disabilities.
One promising approach for strengthening the scientific and political foundation of the caregiving aspects of elder mistreatment research would be to locate it in the domain of quality assurance in long-term care. It is already understood that prevention of mistreatment is a core element of quality assurance in nursing home regulation. Protecting elderly people in community settings, including their own homes, represents a parallel challenge for public policy and an overlapping agenda for researchers aiming to understand the phenomenology, etiology, and consequences of mistreatment and the interventions that can reduce it. By viewing elder mistreatment through the prism of quality assurance (safety and security) in long-term care, it is possible to draw together the frameworks and methods of researchers studying the needs of, and services provided to, vulnerable elderly people in various long-term care settings, as well as those used by researchers studying power and conflict in human relationships.
Systematic implementation of these recommendations will help establish a sound foundation for advancing knowledge on elder mistreatment. A genuine long-term commitment of resources to this important, though understudied, area will also help to recruit a new generation of scientists to field. By the same token, however, it is clear that, in the absence of the kinds of investment recommended in this report, knowledge and understanding of elder mistreatment will remain thin, even as the population ages and the occurrence of mistreatment increases. A substantial commitment to research is needed to inform and guide a caring society as it aims to cope with the challenges ahead.