Marie Beaulieu Ph. D. (Applied Human Sciences), M.Sc. and B.Sc. (Criminology) is a full professor at the School of Social Work of the University of Sherbrooke and a researcher at the Research Centre on Aging at the CIUSSS Estrie-CHUS. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has accumulated nearly 30 years of experience as a university professor. Since November, 2010, she has held the position of Research Chair on Mistreatment of Older Adults financed by the Québec Government. Since July, 2017, she is co-directing, with Suzanne Garon, a center affiliated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the Research Centre on Aging of the Public Health and Social Services of the Eastern Townships region specialised on Age-friendly communities and countering mistreatment. The principal focus of her 30-year career has been countering mistreatment, the sense of security of older adults, ethics, aging and end-of-life care.
Mistreatment of disabled older persons
Marie Beaulieu, University of Sherbrooke, Canada
Physical, cognitive, and mental health disabilities are presented as high-risk factors of mistreatment of older adults (MOA). However, little information is available on the MOA experienced by disabled older adults (DOA) and even less is provided on the services received after detection (self-reported, reported by witnesses or identification by professionals). The literature tends to focus only on MOA of DOA by informal caregiver. Is that the only existing dynamic of MOA of DOA? A critical gerontology framework was mobilised to look at the intersection of age, gender, and disability.
Aim of presentation
Expose the experience of mistreatment of DOA as well as their voices on the services received to counter MOA situations.
This qualitative study has been funded by the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec (Government agency that helps increase the social participation of people with disabilities in Québec – Canada).
Data collection: In-depth interviews (lasting between 100 and 150 minutes) with 11 OAD who have experienced psychological or financial MOA in the past 5 years.
Participants: Age: 62 to 90. Gender: 8 women, 3 men. Disabilities: Mobility, agility, hearing, mental health, cognitive, intellectual disability. Disability occurred: birth, young adult, mid-age, older adult.
Living setting: house, apartment building, apartment building for seniors providing some types of care services, low level of care institution, high level of care institution.
Analysis: thematic content analysis (Miles and Huberman) using the NVivo software.
Participants revealed 18 situations of MOA; 10 of those where directly linked to the disability. Mistreatment of DOA occurs in different contexts: care, personal relationship, business relationship, lease, etc. Abusers are public services (9), family members (5), private services (5), and community-based services (3). Multiple types of MOA were revealed during the interviews. Financial mistreatment was always accompanied by psychological mistreatment. Other types of MOA revealed were sexual, physical, violation of rights, ageism, organizational. All situations were highly stressful, but the most stressful ones were when the mistreatment occurred in a context where direct services were needed because of the disability. The intersection of age and disability creates a lack of energy which diminishes the capacity to counter MOA.
In all cases (besides one), DOA received informal support from family and friends. Formal services were given by public agencies (social workers, ombudsman, police, etc.), community-based agencies (non-profit agency specializing in countering MOA, etc.) or private services (legal, etc.). The rapidity of actions to counter MOA was crucial, especially when it occurred in a context of direct services needed because of the disability. Lack of general coordination among services created important burden on DOA and their loved ones and hindered help-seeking. This study reveals, without surprise, the importance of strong interactional skills by practitioners. These cases showcased the importance of a few actors: friends and family, ombudsman, social workers from public services and community-based agency specialized in countering mistreatment of older adults; The supportive attitudes of family members or practitioners combine with the personal factors of the DOA can lead them to assert themselves, defend their rights and counter MOA.