The findings, which appear in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health, indicate that how domestic elder abuse cases are detected and handled differs significantly across states because the relevant state laws and regulations vary greatly. In particular, the study found that states that require mandatory reporting and tracking of domestic elder abuse reports have much higher investigation rates than states without these mandatory requirements. The study is believed to be the first to comprehensively relate domestic elder abuse rates to laws and regulations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Domestic elder abuse is abuse of adults or dependent/vulnerable adults age 60 and older (age 65 and older in California, Maryland and Nebraska; age 55 and older in Alabama) who live in private residences, not care facilities. Dependent adults are unable to care for themselves as a result of a physical or mental condition and depend on others to help them with tasks of daily living.
The UI study also suggests that particular professions need not be singled out in statutes as mandatory reporters and that types of abuse need to be better defined within many state regulations. In addition, the findings indicate that it may be more effective to have caseworkers handle only adult abuse cases rather than both child and adult cases.
"Laws do have an impact on public health, and this study demonstrates that different aspects of laws related to domestic elder abuse impact the amount of abuse reported, investigated and found to be actual abuse," said Gerald Jogerst, M.D., associate
Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa