Discrimination In Older People

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Discrimination and Oppression in older people with Mental Health Issues

Discrimination and Oppression in older people with Mental Health Issues


The proportion of the elderly population (age 65 and older) has risen dramatically over the last few decades and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Approximately 15% of the American population is elderly today, and by 2030, they will represent 22% of the population, with over 66 million Americans being 65 or older. Estimates of the percentage of elderly persons who are abused range from 4% to 8%, with best estimates suggesting that at least 1 million elderly persons are abused by their caretakers each year. The elderly have commonly been victims of four general types of abuse: physical (including sexual) abuse, physical neglect, psychological/emotional abuse, and financial exploitation. Only a small percentage of these victimizations are reported to the authorities. Studies suggest that only 7% to 10% of all cases of elderly abuse are reported to the police or social service agencies.

Sources of Elder Discrimination

Major sources of elder discrimination can be categorized as institutional, societal, and familial. Institutional sources would be intentional or unintentional adverse actions and negative attitudes from professionals, such as workers in nursing homes, physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers. Institutional abuses are activities that are not in the best interest of the elderly.

Societal sources are thinking of old age in negative ways, stereotypes, discrimination, and ageism. Society has contributed to the transformation of aging from a natural process into a social problem. Elders can be, for example, targets of job discrimination when seeking employment and promotion.

Elders' discrimination in mental health is most often perpetrated by family members or by persons in a position of trust. The profile of perpetrators of elderly physical abuse or neglect shows that they are most often family members, usually adult children. Although male caretakers are more likely to abuse the elderly physically, female caretakers are more likely to neglect or psychologically abuse the elderly. The majority of abusers are middle-aged and are the victims' primary care providers and offspring of the abused. In addition, these offenders are frequently dependent on their victims (often live with victims), may be abusing drugs or alcohol, have histories of depression or mental illness, are either unemployed or have spotty work records, and have histories of financial problems.

Legislation for Elders with Mental Health Problem

Although the ADEA legislation has allowed many older workers to continue employment, there are still other manifestations of ageism in the workplace. First, hiring and firing practices are age differentiated. Qualified older workers are less likely to be hired for positions than same qualified young workers. When forced to downsize, organizations are likely to target early retirement and layoffs at older workers. These observed patterns of employment that favor young workers over older workers may be due to the stereotypical beliefs about physical and mental declines of older individuals.

The charter of Medicare, as enacted into legislation in 1965, was to provide comprehensive and complete hospital (not for all health ...
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