Running Head: THE SERIOUSNESS OF ELDER ABUSE
The Seriousness of Elder Abuse in Hong Kong Families
To let older adults enjoy a sense of security and a sense of belonging is a time-honoured tradition in the Chinese society. Unfortunately, elder abuse has risen as a serious social problem in Hong Kong. An organization called “The Against Elderly Abuse of Hong Kong” has received 2212 requests for assistance related to elder abuse in 2011, which has doubled the number of requests received in 2006 (“Cases of elder abuse,” 2012). Besides, several pieces of news about elder abuse in Hong Kong families have been reported, for example, a 90-year old woman was forced to leave home by her unfilial son and daughter-in-law (Li, 2012). To analyze, the main root causes of elder abuse can be induced to the stress of family caregivers due to the dependence of the elderly as well as the financial dependence of family caregivers on the elderly. In addition to physical and psychological injury, the abused elder people have a higher mortality rate than those not being abused. To ease the elder abuse problem, enhancement of the capacity of elder care services and education on the public about elder abuse have been suggested by the experts.
First and foremost, according to the National Research Council (2003), the definition of elder abuse is defined as “Intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trusting relationship to the elder or failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm” (p. 40). There are 5 categories of elder abuse, including physical, psychological, financial, sexual, and neglect (Harris, 2006). Physical abuse, psychological abuse, and financial abuse are what this essay will emphasize on.
To start with, studying the causes of elder abuse is essential. Among many risk factors of elder abuse, stress of family caregivers due to the dependence of the elderly is one of the
THE SERIOUSNESS OF ELDER ABUSE
main root causes of elder abuse. As the body functions of the elder people are declining, the elderly, especially those suffering from Dementia, may behave like children who depend on the family caregivers in physical, financial and emotional aspects, resulting in exerting a great pressure to the responsible family caregivers (Pillemer, 1989). A study conducted by Lachs, Williams, O’Brien, Hurst, and Horwitz (1997) discovered that the elder people who have impairments in daily physical activities, such as cooking, and need to be taken care of by family caregivers have double chance of being abused than those without impairments. Once the stress on the family caregivers exceeds what they can withstand, elder abuse will probably occur.
Apart from the stress of family caregivers due to the dependence of the elderly, family caregivers depending on the elderly financially is another common cause of the elder abuse. A study conducted by Pillemer (1985) found that “64% of the abusers in his sample were financially dependent on their victims, and 55% were dependent for housing” (p. 152). The same phenomenon can be applied to Hong Kong. As the price of flats in Hong Kong is very high, many Hong Kong citizens cannot afford it. However, some adults still want to have their own flat. Therefore, some of them will force their old parents to pay for them. In some serious cases, an adult son defrauds the money or the ownership of the flat of their old parents by inveigling them to sign the money withdrawal banking slip or the contract of the change of the ownership of their flat (Lee, 2011). Moreover, due to the underreported crime nature of the financial abuse on the elderly and family caregivers accounting for 60% to 90% of the abusers, financial exploitation on the elder people by family caregivers has become a serious social problem which is...
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