Resources for Fighting Elder Abuse: the Hidden Crime

The article employs a systematic approach to the issue of elder mistreatment. From the very beginning, it is described as a daunting problem, and a particular complication is that cases of such mistreatment are hard to detect or investigate. The authors state that collecting reliable information on seniors in the United States subjected to neglect, abuse, exploitation, or other forms of mistreatment is challenging for three reasons: underreporting, research limitations, and the lack of appropriate data collection tools.

There are reasons to suppose that only one case of abuse out of twenty-five is reported, which makes elder abuse a form of a “hidden crime.” The authors speculate on possible ways to achieve a better response to elder mistreatment. Particularly, they recommend modifications in the legal system and the creation of special commissions that could assist in handling and preventing mistreatment.

The difficulties of collecting solid statistics on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation were known to me before reading the article. The authors thoroughly analyze the sociological, institutional, and legal aspects of such statistics. They stress that obtaining reliable data is necessary to address the issue effectively. Therefore, the authors review a wide range of initiatives proposed by researchers and officials to improve the system of eldercare and combat the “hidden crime.”

The institutional framework suggests enhancing the functions and responsibilities of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging. The mission of the authority is to protect rights, autonomy, dignity, and quality of life and care for senior citizens. The commission can assist in addressing elder abuse by recommending guidelines to courts on handling mistreatment cases. It is important because the legal system is estimated as poorly prepared to bring justice to the cases of “hidden crimes.” Also, the commission should inspire a more widespread social discussion by delivering materials and conducting lectures, seminars, and awareness campaigns.

What I learned from the article is the importance of addressing the issue of elder mistreatment not only from the perspective of healthcare, but also from the perspectives of law, regulations, and media. There are collaborative networks established in the United States and other countries that are capable of reducing the neglect and abuse rates, but they need to be used properly to achieve positive outcomes.

The article suggests three steps. First, research methods should be improved to detect the “hidden crimes” and include them in the statistics. This step also implies learning and awareness, i.e. presenting the elder mistreatment situation to the public. Second, collaborative efforts should be developed to improve elder support. Transparency is the environment where “hidden crimes” become extinct.

For example, a broadened collaboration between hospitals and social care services reduces the risks for the patients to be abused. Finally, the article recommends creating jurisdiction-specific tools to address elder abuse within an adequate legal framework. Generally, the article showed me how acknowledging elder abuse as a serious problem and creating institutional and legal mechanisms to address it can contribute to fighting elder mistreatment.


Uekert, B. K., & Van Duizend, R. (2014). Resources for fighting elder abuse: The hidden crime. Experience, 24(1), 26-30.

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