Aging and Elder Abuse: Projections for Michigan

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Demographic changes in the population age structure are outcomes of longer life expectancies, lower birth rates, and an older average age of giving birth (see, e.g., Ram 1998, Chesnais 2001, Vaupel 2001, Becker 2004). It has been recognized that such changes are likely to result in significant increases in elder abuse (see, e.g., Ramsey-Klawsnik 2000, Voelker 2002). Specifically, disproportionate increases in the number of dependent elders relative to working age individuals may result in higher stress levels among caregivers and increase abuse opportunities, and thus may act to increase the rates of elder abuse.

Clinicians have identified a broad array of risk factors typically associated with elder abuse and neglect (for recent surveys, see Lachs and Pillemer 2004, Pillemer and Finkelhor 1989, and Podnieks 2004). Factors such as a caregiver’s mental health, substance abuse, dependence on the care recipient, and depression have been described as important indicators of elder abuse and mistreatment. Alternative theories of abuse emphasize the personal problems of the abuser (e.g., alcoholism and personality characteristics) and the personal characteristics of the elderly (e.g., poor health, limitations of daily living, social isolation) as primary factors of abuse.