Elder abuse and neglect in disasters: Types, prevalence and research gaps
A systematic review of literature and of information from key organizations was conducted to provide an overview of what is known about elder mistreatment in disaster situations, identify research gaps and to discuss possible policy interventions. While there has been growth in recent years in research on prevalence, incidence and risk factors for morbidity and mortality of seniors in disasters and on elder abuse, research specifically on elder abuse and neglect in disaster situations was limited and only 19 articles were found. The types of abuse most commonly addressed in these articles were financial (theft in shelters and contractor fraud), neglect (primarily abandonment), and physical abuse (domestic violence). Evidence was mainly anecdotal except for contractor fraud, where some prevalence data were available. Research is needed to fill the substantial information gaps. Increase in use of services has been employed to document increases in child abuse and domestic violence during and after disasters. The same methodology could be employed for elder abuse and neglect. Research on best practices (shelter-in-place vs. evacuation) is needed for end-of-life care patients and frail elders in institutional settings. Training and awareness programs for first responders are also needed so that they can better recognize seniors who may have come from abusive environments and to prevent abuse from occurring in emergency housing to which seniors are relocated.