Defining and Measuring Elder Abuse and Neglect (2010-12)

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) funded two years of research to address the mistreatment (abuse and neglect) of older adults in Canada. The project aimed to inform a possible national prevalence study, and other potential studies, by developing measurement instruments that will be applicable in the community as well as institutions.
The research team was made up of fourteen experts from Canada and abroad. The project sought to address several issues, among them: problems associated with the conceptual definitions and measurement of mistreatment of older adults; theoretical difficulties; current challenges associated with identifying risk factors for mistreatment, and; issues surrounding the collection of reliable and valid data related to the prevalence of abuse and neglect.

Project Description: 
The 5 sub-projects within this program of research were:  

1) Clearly Defining Elder Abuse and Neglect

This sub-project involved developing clear conceptual definitions for mistreatment of older adults, as well as for specific types of mistreatment (including: physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect).  In addition to a thorough review of social science literature and a broad legal review to compare the treatment of elder abuse across Canadian jurisdictions, this sub-project also involved a Definition Consensus Event which incorporated stakeholder feedback into the definitional development.

2) Developing Instruments for Measuring Elder Abuse and Neglect

This sub-project involved developing operational definitions for the five main types of mistreatment, as well as risk factors and perpetrator classifications for community and institutions. Draft questionnaires for a telephone survey in the community and for face-to-face interviews in institutions, were developed and tested in English and French focus groups as well as dyad interviews that took place in Toronto, Ontario and Magog, Quebec.

3) Validation of Measurement Instruments

This sub-project involved validating the measurement instruments using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. This sub-project involved cognitive testing of the questionnaires through face-to-face interviews (in order to improve clarity and comprehensibility of the instruments), and telephone and institution-based interviews for the purposes of studying the measurement instruments.

4) Ethical Considerations

This sub-project  identified ethical issues in conducting a study of mistreatment, and ascertained possible solutions. This project ran simultaneously with the early months of the third sub-project as many of the ethical issues that arose had to be addressed prior to field work.

5) Knowledge Transfer/Final Consensus Event

This sub-project provided a context in which overall project results and conclusions were formally presented, as well as explored by researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders.