Elder abuse: a burning issue

Thanks to phenomenal medical and technological progress, people tend to live longer every year. However, with a growing ageing population, the WHO reports that by 2021, 1 in 6 elderly people are likely to have been subjected to abuse. On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Dr Pascale Dinan, a specialist in geriatrics, gives us an overview of the situation.

What exactly is elder abuse?

In order to understand this issue, we must differentiate between the terms ‘good treatment’ and ‘abuse’. According to ANESM, good treatment is a real culture based on individual actions and community relationships. Its aim is to ensure the well-being of vulnerable people by individualizing and personalizing the way they are treated. Abuse, on the other hand, consists, according to the WHO, of ‘a single and repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person’. These actions, whether intentional or not, constitute a breach in human rights.

Are there different types of abuse?

There are 7 types of abuse. It can be physical, with violence or physical restraint inflicted on the person, or psychological, with verbal violence and other pressure and punitive actions exerted on the person. There is also iatrogenic abuse (too much or too little medication), financial abuse (looting, extortion, etc.), institutional abuse (loss of freedom of movement, inadequate assistance, etc.), civil abuse (infringement of liberty and dignity) and societal abuse (ageism and discriminatory prejudices towards these people).

How can such a situation arise?

According to Professor Robert Moulias, there are six basic characteristics associated with abuse: the victim’s weakness, lack of awareness of the person’s needs and humanity, ignorance of proper treatment, the victim’s silence, social isolation and, finally, the environment. Most of the time, these acts of abuse are unintentional and result from the physical and moral overload of the carer, hence the importance of appropriate training. For the carer, many factors have to be taken into account, such as social problems, difficulties with integration, or inappropriate behaviour (humiliation, insults, etc.) towards the cared-for person.

What are the warning symptoms?

First of all, you should pay attention to any behavioural changes. The person may suddenly become suspicious or even show depressive symptoms such as sadness, self-withdrawal, loss of initiative. On the physical level, there may be repeated unexplainable bruising or falls, or a neglected physical appearance. The person concerned may also complain of particular psychosomatic disorders. In some cases, the explanations of the elderly person and the carer may differ, and this can also be a warning sign.

Once a case of abuse is detected, which actions are required?

There are two hotlines in Mauritius to report cases of abuse: 172 and 199. The Welfare and Elderly Persons’ Protection Unit (WEPPU) was set up in 2006 to manage and deal with these cases. Elderly Watch branches are also present throughout the country and also promote the welfare of older people by implementing actions to prevent abuse. Once a complaint has been lodged, an investigation is launched and appropriate care is provided.

From a psychological point of view, abuse is also part of the exclusion that older people often experience. How can it be prevented?

While some older people maintain an active life by, for example, looking after their grandchildren or concentrating on their hobbies, others tend to withdraw from contact with the outside world, thereby reinforcing their feeling of loneliness, which can be detrimental to them. It is essential to break the social isolation that the person may feel, and the family is most likely to play this role. The NGO Groupement FIAPA Océan Indien offers a wide range of activities on a weekly basis and group outings in accordance with the health regulations. It is therefore necessary, as far as possible, to maintain this link with the world around them.

As abuse occurs most frequently at home, would moving to a nursing home prevent this?

The majority of abuse cases do indeed take place at home. If the retirement home can act as a safeguard against abuse, this does not necessarily mean that they are exempt from maltreatment! Most of the time, this abuse is not intentional and can, for example, be the result of overwork. It can also take place in a more insidious way, where the carer may act with the greatest benevolence, but does not respond adequately to the person’s needs. This is why each institution should first and foremost draw up a welfare charter to develop a culture around this notion and train its professionals to properly implement it.

Related Article

According to the French National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the most common type affecting men. What are the signs that need to be taken into account? Here’s what you need to know. Although the risk of getting prostate cancer before the age of
Your doctor says that you should undergo a cataract surgery… What should you expect in the days following the operation? What precautions should be taken? Dr. Li Yim, an ophthalmologist at the Clinique Bon Pasteur, has accepted to answer all our questions.
While it should only cause a temporary discomfort, gastroenteritis—an infection of the digestive tract—can sometimes have harmful consequences in infants and young children. Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fever, loss of appetite… How to prevent
Did you know that it was a woman who invented the first real computer program in 1843? In a field which has essentially been dominated by men, many women have nevertheless brought much progress! Now in 2023, women inclusion in the digital world is put
Orthopedic surgery Specialising in the surgical treatment and correction of various deformities and injuries, orthopedic surgery definitely covers a large spectrum. Yet, some of the more common conditions are a daily reality for most self-respecting
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease, often associated with ageing. It is thought to be caused by the ageing of the joints, but can affect individuals of any age, and more particularly athletes and people suffering from obesity. On this World
Physical pain, dizziness, lung problems, psychiatric disorders, osteoarthritis… Is there anything that physiotherapy does not treat? With the aim of improving the patient’s physical condition, physiotherapy uses various means to design the best
As your pregnancy is coming to full term, you realise that Mother Nature is being temperamental: your delivery will thus have to be scheduled. What are the reasons behind such a decision? How to get prepared? Here is the answer in three parts. What are the
Here it is: you are expecting your first child and asking yourself a lot of questions… What is exactly the role of a paediatrician? Why is it important to have one? When to look for one? Dr. Alleesaib, paediatrician at the Clinique Bon Pasteur, is answering
While the benefits of breastfeeding have been long proven, many mothers become quickly discouraged. Lack of time, stressful sessions, lack of psychological support, incorrect information… And yet, breastfeeding is all good! We discussed the matter with Dr.
Launched in the United States, where the consumption of ultra-processed foods is one of the worst habits, National Junk Food Day is an annual reminder of the dangers of unhealthy food. Indeed, it is thought to be responsible for one in five deaths, even more
When we talk about a clinic’s efficiency, we immediately associate it with the care organization and teams. However, many of our behind-the-scenes colleagues are vital to making the Clinic efficient and productive. Among them are the system
Even today, vitiligo is a condition that is still causing researchers much concern! Affecting about 1% of the population, it is expressed by a gradual depigmentation of the skin that irregularly affects certain parts of the body, particularly the face,
July 15th marks World Youth Skills Day and celebrates the importance of teaching young people all the relevant skills needed to achieve success in employment, getting a decent job and becoming an entrepreneur. The Clinique Bon Pasteur has been participating
We often hear about the importance of having a health check-up. As a preventative health care measure, it helps to identify potential pathologies before they appear or become serious. Who should have a check-up? How does it work? Interview with Dr Panchcoory,
Each year on May 25th, the thyroid gland is given special attention. And for good reason! Despite its small size, this gland controls many of our body’s essential functions. And since thyroid disorders are among the most common endocrine problems,
While the baby blues, which is often associated with postpartum hormonal shifts, is rather common after birth, postpartum depression affects up to 20% of new mothers, the WHO reports. How to explain such phenomenon? What are the signs to watch for? How to
Temperatures have started to drop and evenings are turning milder. Winter is beginning to show its face, no doubt about it! With it comes the onset of seasonal flu, which can be prepared for with the vaccines offered by the Clinic. Who are they for? When to
Radiology and pulmonology : what pulmonary imaging can reveal about your lungs Everyday your lungs are doing an extraordinary job: bringing oxygen into the blood and driving out the carbon dioxide produced by the cells. They may be nevertheless affected by
Since the Clinique Bon Pasteur is committed to the safety and health of its employees and collaborators as well as its patients and visitors, works have been initiated this year to provide an optimal environment to all. Anju Teeluck, Health & Safety