The studies found that a history of abuse, lack of positive social support, and isolation from family significantly increase older Chinese Americans’ risk of experiencing elder abuse, chronic health conditions, and even early death. Culturally-sensitive screening for a history of violence among minorities – the key to improving care – remains inadequate, however.
“Violence over the life course has a profoundly negative impact on victims’ lives and our society,” said lead researcher, XinQi Dong, director of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and Chair of the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse. “Our research found that violence is prevalent, cumulative and leads to significant adverse health outcomes, including poor physical and mental health, chronic pain, greater use of healthcare services, and increased risk of early death.”
Researchers interviewed 3,157 Chinese Americans aged 60 and older and found child abuse, intimate partner violence, negative social support, and isolation from family were potential predictors of elder abuse, including psychological and physical mistreatment, caregiver neglect, and financial exploitation.
According to the studies, 11.4% of study respondents reported experiencing child maltreatment, 6.5% reported intimate partner violence, and 15.2% reported elder abuse. Because traditional cultural values often prevent Chinese older adults from disclosing potential abuse to maintain family harmony, the numbers are likely much higher.
The articles illustrate how various factors contribute to increased risk of elder abuse.
The research findings continue to challenge the “model minority myth” – the misperception that the U.S. Asian populations are more economically prosperous, highly educated, have active social and familial relationships, and are healthier than the general population.
“The research has exposed the truth behind the myth,” said Dr. Dong. “The truth is that older Chinese Americans are often economically vulnerable, less educated, and suffer from a wide range of health problems exacerbated by the lack of linguistically/culturally sensitive care.”
According to Dong, healthcare professionals must work to develop culturally customized services for older minorities.
“Our research suggests that healthcare providers serve a critical role in interrupting the cycle of violence,” Dong continued. “To ensure adequate, equitable, and culturally-sensitive care, healthcare providers, must overcome cultural and linguistic barriers to care.”
Dong said, by assessing patients for a history of violence, inquiring into family dynamics- focusing on stressors like immigration and acculturation processes – and exploring sources of social support, providers can better screen for elder abuse and, ultimately, improve patients’ quality of life.