Abuse suffered by selected elderly persons prior to admission to an old age home

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Elder abuse is one of the major problems in South Africa. Elderly people are being abused by their family members, children and members of their communities This problem remains hidden in that most cases are not reported to the officials, and if they are reported, officials are doing little or nothing about them. Although the communities are trying to address the issue, due to underreporting it is very difficult to determine the actual number of the elderly who are being abused daily . Traditionally, the young generation is expected to respect their elderly people, whether they know them or not. However, nowadays it appears that little respect is shown to the elderly. Instead they are often being financially robbed, physically attacked, sexually abused and emotionally threatened. As a result they move to old age institutions or places of safety for safety and security. This paper focuses on those elderly who suffered abuse in their families and communities. The study is conducted in an institution for the elderly. The abused elderly are encouraged to talk about what happened to them and who their abusers are, with the aim of finding out what brought them into an institution. The findings of this research were obtained through focus group and in-depth individual interviews. Access to the institution was given at St. Monica's Home and seven elderly persons, which is 50% of the residents, were interviewed. The same persons participated in both the in-depth individual and focus group interviews as a form of primary data collection. Information was elicited in the form of a focus group discussion and interviews with individuals. The results of this paper indicate that: a) Family and community members are sometimes guilty of abusing the elderly. b) Elderly persons have lost trust in reporting their problems to officials, especially the police. c) The elderly prefer to be at the institution than to be at home, where they were abused by their 'loved' ones. d) Society has, to a large extent, lost traditional and cultural values in respect of caring for the elderly. e) There is a lack of knowledge among people regarding resources that could assist elderly people with their problems. The research results show that there are elderly persons who move to institutions for the aged for safety and security, not because they prefer living there. However, one cannot generalize the findings of the study, as it covered only a small number of persons, and is, therefore, not representative of the elderly in general. The study focused on one institution with a limited population, as it had fourteen elderly people.

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