Reconceptualizing Elder Abuse: Treating the Disease of Senior Community Exclusion
California Western School of Law - Institute of Health and Law Studies
Bryan A. Liang
University of California San Diego School of Medicine
Annals of Health Law, Forthcoming
Elder abuse is legion in the US. This issue will become even more severe as the population ages as well as under the continued limited funding for programs that attempt to address this social plague. However, elder abuse represents a symptom of social discordance - a symptom of the disease of inadequate integration of the senior into the community that could provide for their social, medical, and legal needs as well as transparency to ensure detection of potential abuse. Although there are many multidisciplinary efforts to address the problem of abuse, they are not responsive to the needs of the senior population itself. Instead, they are merely reactive, and focus more on administrative convenience than senior service and protection. What is needed is a fundamental reassessment of elder abuse by treating the disease of elder separation and social isolation from the community and local needs of each senior population. Such a model is proposed here. A needs assessment focused upon the local senior population, consistent definitions of abuse and service provider and senior community participation in programmatic design, and an easily accessible, commonly understood community locus for services and activities will provide seniors and their stakeholder providers a stable infrastructure to ensure open, consistent, and effective participation and service provision. Importantly, seniors in such a system will be empowered through education as to abuse and may act as the last barrier to harm. They can then be an active participant in their community so that abuse is and can be detected and thwarted; such a circumstance may deter potential abusers from targeting members of the community, while providing an efficient locale for services and support to assist those who are subject to abuse.
Keywords: elder abuse, community exclusion, education, empowerment
JEL Classification: I18
Date posted: January 4, 2006
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