Elder abuse and dementia: A review of the research and health policy

Xinqi Dong, Ruijia Chen, Melissa A. Simon

Publication Date: 01/01/2014

Older adults with dementia may be at high risk for abuse, but the topic has not been well studied. We conducted a literature review to examine the relationships between elder abuse and dementia. We found that psychological abuse was the most common form of abuse among older adults, with estimates of its prevalence ranging from 27.9 percent to 62.3 percent. Physical abuse was estimated to affect 3.5-23.1 percent of older adults with dementia. We also found that many older adults experienced multiple forms of abuse simultaneously, and the risk of mortality from abuse and self-neglect may be higher in older adults with greater levels of cognitive impairment. We summarize programs and policies related to the abuse of older adults with dementia, including adult protective services, mandatory elder abuse reporting, and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.We also summarize aspects of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, the Older Americans Act, and the Elder Justice Act. In spite of a recent increase in research and policy developments on elder abuse, challenges such as insufficient funding, limited knowledge about elder abuse, a lack of funding for the implementation of federal and state programs relevant to elder abuse and dementia, and a lack of dementia-specific training for front-line health care staff persist. Stronger programs targeting the well-being of older adults with dementia are needed.