[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 1 Issue 12, July 2011].
Maltreatment of elders is pervasive throughout the WHO European Region according to this report. It is estimated that more than 4 million elderly people experience maltreatment in any given year and 2,500 of them will die each year as a result.
There is strong evidence that dementia is a risk factor in becoming a victim of elder maltreatment. Studies show that older people with dementia (or a disability) resulting in increased dependence on caregivers are exposed to an increased the risk of elder maltreatment. The likelihood of being murdered by a family member is three times higher when older person have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Maltreatment of older people with dementia by their carers is thought to be associated with violent, disruptive and challenging behaviour, which probably precipitates retaliatory behaviour. A study of nursing home staff in Germany indicates how (self-reported) maltreatment by nursing staff tends to be linked to aggressive behaviour by older patients and the higher workload incurred by people with dementia. A study by the National Center on Elder Abuse in the United States shows similar findings. This report provides references to many studies and publications on the subject from international sources.
Most countries in the WHO European Region have an ageing population, putting increasing numbers of people at risk. This report presents an array of biological, social, cultural, economic and environmental factors which increase the risk of being a victim (or perpetrator) of elder maltreatment, and goes on to list the corrective / protective factors that could help prevent it.
Sethi, D. Wood, S. [and] Mitis, F. [et al]. European report on preventing elder maltreatment. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2011.