How Widespread Is the Problem of Elderly Abuse?
In 1994-95, more than five percent of adults older than 65 were living in institutions (Statistics Canada)
It is very difficult to estimate how much abuse actually goes on in institutions that are caring for older adults. The three identified studies that focus on the topic of abuse were all survey studies. While they are not strong scientifically because they do not indicate the incidence of abuse, they do confirm that the problem of abuse of older adults does exist.
The Ontario College of Nurses (13) surveyed 804 nurses and 804 nursing assistants:
- 20 percent reported witnessing abuse of patients in nursing homes
- 31 percent reported witnessing rough handling of patients
- 28 percent reported witnessing workers yelling and swearing at patients
- 28 percent reported witnessing embarrassing comments being said to patients
- 10 percent reported witnessing other staff hitting or shoving patients
In another survey conducted in Quebec (14), 140 professionals were asked about violence that they knew about in institutional or home settings:
- 974 acts of abuse were identified
- Of these 974 acts, 35.5 percent were observed in residential centers or hospitals
- Another 28.4 percent were observed in institutions, which included private institutions receiving government aid.
Two American researchers (5) surveyed 577 nurses and nursing aides who were employed in 31 different nursing homes in New Hampshire. The staff reported that in the year before the study took place, the following behaviours were observed:
- Physical abuse had been witnessed by 36 percent of staff
- Excessive use of restraints was witnessed by 21 percent of staff
- Pushing, grabbing, shoving or pinching was witnessed by 17 percent of staff
- Slapping or hitting was witnessed by 15 percent of staff.
Psychological abuse was observed by 81 percent of staff and included yelling at the resident in anger, insulting or swearing at the resident, and isolating the resident inappropriately.
(5) Pillemer, K. & Moore, D.W. (1989). Abuse of Patients in Nursing Homes: Findings from a Survey of Staff. Gerontologist, 29(3), 314-320.
(13) College of Nurses of Ontario (1993). Abuse of Clients by RNs and RNAs: Report to Council on Result of Canada Health Monitor Survey of Registrants. Toronto: Author, 1-11.
(14) Belanger, L., Darche, T., de Ravinel, H., & Grenier, P. (1981) Violence et personnes âgées. (1) Montréal: Les cahiers de l’Association québécoise de gérontologie.