Exploring elder abuse among clinic attendees in a selected Durban hospital.
Phakathi, Nonhlanhla N.
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Background: Elder abuse is a relatively new phenomenon that has remained a hidden and taboo subject throughout history, not only in South Africa, but globally. It is however, emerging as a growing social problem. The problem of elder abuse remains hidden behind the non disclosure of family incidents and institutional incidents (Wolf, 1992). According to Beaulieu and Blanger (1995) elder abuse is a very complex issue with diverse definitions, types and names, has been very slow to capture the public eye and public policy. It is manifested at many levels including physical, psychological, legal and social levels and requires the involvement of different types of professionals. South Africa is amongst countries with disproportionately large population of elderly adults. According to the Department of Health (2000) this situation is due to the impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome pandemic on members of the younger generations which has altered the age structure of populations in severely affected countries. South Africa is one such country with KwaZulu-Natal province reported to have an extremely high incidence of the disease. A 2002 report by the World Health Organization revealed that older people were taking on new roles by providing care and financial support to orphaned children and fulfilling child-rearing roles within their extended families. Elder abuse is widespread in South Africa but the definition of abuse remains problematic. While some types of abuse fit with Western typologies, others (such as the rape of women by sons and grandsons to extort pension money, or accusations of witchcraft to seize assets) do not fit the Western typology hence an expanded typology is needed (Ferreira, v 2008). In spite of the progress that has been made in explaining how and why elder abuse occurs, it still remains a poorly understood problem. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore the types and patterns of elder abuse and the extent of the problem in a selected hospital in Durban. Research methodology: Guided by the positivist paradigm, a quantitative, descriptive and explorative design was adopted in this study. As a result, data was collected through a structured questionnaire and analyzed statistically using an SPSS package, version 15.0. The whole population of elderly patients (N=1000) in the selected setting was requested to participate in this study. A total of 150 elderly people were used as a research sample which is 10% of the population. All elderly who participated returned completed questionnaires, thus setting the response rate at 100%. Results: The results indicated that the elderly experienced physical abuse more than any type of abuse. The most common types of physical abuse experienced by the elderly included pinching, force-feeding, hitting, biting and slapping, burning, kicking, prevention from access to food and medication, prevention from access to health aids such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and restraining. The abuse was most commonly committed by close relatives, loved ones and carers. It was also found that the elderly were abused financially. It also emerged that the elderly were treated like children and were sometimes accused of witchcraft and labeled within the community as witches. Recommendations: This study recommends a multidisciplinary approach to elder care and management. Because of the growing number of elderly in our society and because they are a vulnerable group which needs special nursing care, it is recommended that the nursing curriculum should include a detailed geriatric syllabus A future qualitative study is recommended that will explore the views of elderly on abuse. Further research that would explore each type of abuse as it occurs in the community is recommended, this will add on the existing limited literature. In South Africa there are national guidelines on the prevention of elderly abuse but these are frequently not implemented to safeguard the health and well being of the elderly. It is recommended that these guidelines should be disseminated to provinces and municipalities and the implementation of guidelines should be monitored and evaluated.