“Law reforms, including harsh criminal penalties, may be needed for elder abuse to be taken seriously in Australia, delegates at a national elder abuse conference have been told.
Brisbane-based elder law specialist Brian Herd joined Canadian gerontologist Dr Gloria Gutman in likening the significance of elder abuse today to that of domestic violence 30 years ago: unacknowledged, unspoken and kept behind closed doors.” (Source)
As with other forms of domestic violence, elder abuse includes both physical violence and emotional abuse.
In America, the National Center on Elder Abuse, Bureau of Justice Statistics 2014, provides us with the following snapshot:
Average number of elderly abuse cases each year 2,150,000. Percent of female elder abuse victims 67.3 %. Median age of elder abuse victims 77.9. Breakdown of Reported Elder Abuse Cases: Neglect 58.5 %. Physical Abuse 15.7 %. Financial Exploitation 12.3 %. Emotional Abuse 7.3 %. Sexual Abuse 0.04 %. All other types 5.1 %. Unknown 0.06 %. (Source)
The results of a West Australian study also found that more elderly women than men were abused.
On the other hand, it has not been so easy, thus far, to identify the gender balance with regards to those perpetrating abuse. I wrote to the agency that released the report on aged care in Australia (referred to later in this blog post) seeking available data on this matter. They responded in the following manner:
- What is the gender balance in the aged care workforce? How many male staff are there vs female staff, and is the gender balance fairly consistent across job roles?
“The most current available national data relating to the gender balance in the aged care workforce shows that in 2012 in both residential and community aged care, males comprised just over 10 per cent of the direct care workforce. The proportion of men working in residential aged care is slightly higher than in community aged care at 11 per cent or about 16,000 male care workers while in community aged care there are about 9,000 male care workers. In 2012 the female direct care workforce in both residential and community aged care comprised approximately 215,000 people.”
- Firstly, considering all allegations or complaints of misconduct … Of the complaints made how many were made specifically in relation to the conduct of male staff? female staff?
- Next, of those complaints that actually resulted in some form of counselling/punishment, how many of those complaints were made specifically in relation to the conduct of male staff? female staff?
“In relation to your request, the Department of Social Services does not collect information about staff disciplinary action taken by aged care facilities. The management of misconduct of staff is a matter for the provider of the aged care service. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) manages investigations into the professional conduct, performance or health of registered health practitioners. As you may be aware the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) is a national programme managed by the Department. The Scheme’s primary role is to respond to concerns raised by care recipients or clients, their representatives and others regarding the quality of care or services provided through Australian Government subsidised aged care services. The Scheme assesses the information received and determines whether the approved provider has met their obligations and responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997.”
Thus the lack of data is partly attributable to the very low number of abusers who are actually sanctioned or convicted. It is, however, generally recognised that most of those who abuse older people in an institutional setting are women. (Source)
Why am I not surprised that the feminist movement has been silent on this issue? Just as in the case of child neglect/abuse, women perpetrating partner violence (or any violence for that matter!), female teachers preying on students, and so on.
Elder abuse typically occurs either in the victims own home or in an aged care facility, with the perpetrators usually being caregivers. In the home the primary caregiver is typically an adult daughter. In aged care facilities the perpetrators are usually staff of the facility, most of whom are also female.
Here in Australia: “More than 2,353 allegations of physical and sexual assault were made by nursing home residents in 2013-14 – an increase of more than 100 on the previous year … The figures, revealed in the annual report on the operation of the Aged Care Act, drew calls from aged care advocates for greater transparency and accountability.” Read more at Aged Care – More allege assault (23 December 2014)
I couldn’t help but notice the clear element of ‘victim-blaming’ that features at the end of the article:
“RESPONDING to the report, Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive John G Kelly highlighted behavioural problems as a concern.
“It is a sad reality that there are now more people in aged care and a greater proportion of those have dementia, leading to behaviours the person would never have even considered before they had dementia,” he said.”
I certainly can’t imagine anyone making a similar statement about victims of domestic violence involving intimate partners, i.e. blaming the incidence of violence on annoying behaviour displayed by those who are assaulted.
Further, it’s interesting to note the number of cases where women are said to be over-represented amongst the ranks of elder-abusers because they are more often the ones who shoulder the responsibility for providing care and support to the victim.
Yet were someone to offer the same justification for a male perpetrator involved in partner violence situation, well that would certainly be met with the utmost degree of scorn, viz. ‘The poor man had all the pressure to meet the financial needs of the household, and he just couldn’t manage to hold it together’.
Perhaps yet another case of one gender being held to a certain standard, and the other being held to a quite separate one.
‘Unacceptable’ delay in addressing aged care assaults of 100 per week (13 September 2020) Australia. Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of the gender of perpetrators
Another example of aged care abuse by women. This one in Michigan, USA (24 May 2020) Video
This woman’s treatment may be shocking, but it’s not assault (24 September 2018) Australia. But somehow I think if the media had a video with male carers then it *would* be labelled as assault.
Aged care horror: ‘It was the most atrocious act’ (25 June 2018)
Ontario nurse charged in deaths of 8 nursing home residents (26 October 2016)
Granddad’s heartbreak: Abused by the girl I raised (27 May 2016) Australia
Daughter Charged In Death Of Elderly Mother Over Property Dispute (23 April 2016) USA
Submission by ‘Justice Connect’ to the 2016 Australian Federal Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality (Submission #37). This organisation asserts that approx. 60% elder abuse is perpetrated by males, but they don’t differentiate between abuse taking place in institutional settings versus other environments. They claim that most of those reporting abuse are female, but don’t address the issue of propensity of male vs female victims to report abuse. They do point out that there are more women than men in the community, in the most vulnerable age groups.
Aged care workers cite abuse and neglect of nursing home patients (14 August 2013)