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Elder abuse occurs when older adults are exposed to “physical, emotional, or psychological harm.” Abuse through physical harm includes the acts of kicking, beating, or hitting older persons, among others. Emotional and/or psychological abuse, on the other hand, results from any language, action, or even non-action which causes emotional and mental pain and fear of any kind (APA Online, 2008). Elder abuse has been classified as “domestic abuse” and “institutional abuse.” The former refers to abuses occurring in the homes while the latter concerns abuses in care facilities such as a nursing home or home for the aged (National Center on Elder Abuse, n.d.).
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Elder abuse eluded detection for some time because of several reasons. One of these reasons is the fact that most elder abuse cases are domestic abuses, or abuses occurring in the homes. Detection had been difficult because families who were guilty of elder abuse usually isolated themselves from the rest of the community to hide their practices. This isolation also made it hard for victims to seek outside help. Some “societal attitudes” also helped conceal cases of elder abuse. One significant attitude among Americans is their belief that things or events occurring inside people’s homes are matters which involve the family and should therefore be considered private to that family. As such, it was considered unethical for some time for other people to intervene (APA Online, 2008).
Cultural differences have also made detection difficult. For instance, when abusers used a foreign language to verbally abuse older adults, observers who did not understand the language had no way of knowing whether psychological or emotional abuse was already being committed. Moreover, in cultures where an old people is already considered as something to be discarded because of the absence of respect for their elderly, elder abuse was rampant but was not considered undesirable (APA Online, 2008).
Reporting of elder abuse cases should be made mandatory because of the moral principle that “Every older person has the right to be safe” (National Center on Elder Abuse, n.d.). In other words, older persons are like any other members of society who are entitled to the protection of the constitution and the laws of the land. Society, as a whole, benefits from elder abuse prevention because it ensures that this sector of the American society retains its dignity and honor in spite of their advanced age. This is the reason why although the federal government has yet to come up with laws preventing elder abuse, the states have already passed their own versions of laws aimed at protecting the elderly (National Center on Elder Abuse, n.d.).
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