Elder Abuse in Communities

Abuse and neglect is more common in Latino elders than once thought

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Sometimes the elderly have a hard time reaching out for help when they are being abused. Cultural differences and language barriers can keep minorities from reporting abuse. A recent study uncovered higher rates of elder abuse in Latino communities than previously reported.

Researchers report a new approach to raise awareness and make help accessible to elderly Latinos would help.

"Report any suspicions of elder abuse to the authorities."

Kathleen H. Wilber, PhD, professor in the School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California and graduate student, Marguerite DeLiema, investigated elder abuse in a low-income Latino population.

For the study, local Spanish-speaking Latinos were recruited and trained to interview low-income Latinos over the age of 66.

They recruited local Spanish-speaking Latinos, called promotores, to negate language barriers, trust issues with outsiders and fears of betraying their cultures for the interview.

The promotores went door-to-door based on Los Angeles census data to approach subjects for interviews.

Data collected indicated frequent psychological, physical and sexual abuse, being taken advantage of financially, and caregiver neglect.

Results of the study showed that 40 percent of elderly Latinos had been through some form of abuse or neglect in the previous year.

Psychological abuse was reported around 25 percent, physical abuse around 10 percent and sexual abuse around 9 percent.

Financial exploitation was reported around 17 percent and caregiver neglect was around 12 percent.

DeLiema said, “Our study has revealed a much higher rate of elder abuse among the Latino community than had been previously thought.”

“This indicates that family solidarity within the Latino community does not necessarily protect older Latinos against elder abuse, as some research has suggested.”

Dr. Wilber said, “The findings could lead to the development of more community interventions to raise awareness about and prevent elder abuse within Latino communities—culturally competent programs that disseminate information about elder abuse and provide older Latinos with links to services in their communities.”

This study was published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Funding was provided by the National Institute of Aging in the National Institutes of Health, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 30, 2012
Last Updated:
March 27, 2013