Policy Implications of Recognizing that Caregiver Stress Is Not the Primary Cause of Elder Abuse

The National ClearingHouse on Abuse in Later Life


“Each year, millions of older adults are abused, neglected, or financially exploited (Lifespan of Greater Rochester et al., 2011; Acierno et al., 2010). In 2009, an estimated $450 billion was spent on providing care for older individuals (Feinberg et al., 2011). Burdened caregivers who do not have adequate support and resources often experience stress. Would preventing caregiver stress eliminate or reduce elder abuse?

Early elder abuse research suggested that caregiver stress was the primary cause of elder abuse. According to this model, “the elderly victim is viewed as very dependent on the caregiver, usually an adult daughter, who becomes frustrated, angry and sometimes abusive or neglectful because of the continuous caretaking needs of the infirm parent” (Wolf, 2000). But is caregiver stress the primary cause of elder abuse? And what are the unintended consequences of focusing on stressed caregivers to prevent and alleviate elder abuse?”

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