How to better tackle Elder Abuse in Belgium?

Health Services Research (HSR)

According to the WHO, the abuse of older persons allegedly affects one in six people aged over 60 worldwide, and only one in every 24 cases is reported. Our report examines the obstacles hampering the detection of problem situations and puts forward a series of twenty-one recommendations to improve the way they are taken care of.

The first of these recommendations is a request directed at the authorities to place a decision support tool at the disposal of all participants potentially involved in the care of the elderly, aimed at providing them with guidance in respect of the questions that might arise and the attitudes to be adopted when faced with any suspected case of abuse. This decision support tool (which is available on our website) also gives a list of tools for the detection of abuse and ill-treatment that have been identified in international literature.

We also took an interest in a little-known – and more often than not involuntary – form of abuse, referred to as “derailed care”. This specifically affects family caregivers who, when they find themselves feeling the effects of overwork, may slip insidiously into a relationship in which ill-treatment takes the place of positive treatment. Few figures are available on this subject but some estimates lead us to suppose that this could be the case in around 15% of family caregivers. In the residential care sector, too, when a lack of time, resources and staff complicates the organisation and when the financing system does not encourage the autonomy of the elderly, positive treatment can transform into institutional abuse.

Generally, we feel it would be desirable for society as a whole – and the authorities at its helm – to be made more aware of the issues of positive treatment, abuse and ageism (age-related discrimination). In the long run, this should promote a change of mentality towards greater inclusion of elderly persons, and the adoption of initiatives designed to support and strengthen the sectors of care and support for the elderly.

KCE Reports 331: How to better tackle Elder Abuse in Belgium?