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Spousal Abuse

Common Issues, Aging and Mental Health (courtesy of The Center for Aging and Life Change)

Patterns of violent, abusive behaviors can persist throughout life or, in some instances develop in advanced age. Abuse can take different forms depending on the individual and the context. And, with the aging of American society we can expect that victims and perpetrators of physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse will increase within the next decade.

It's just hard to believe that old people are abusive to one another, but it happens. Unfortunately, ageist stereotypes among the professional community, as well as the lay public, frequently interfere with detecting abuse and provision of appropriate intervention. Abuse victims further complicate the issue by their unwillingness to report or confirm an abusive incident. An unwillingness often based on legitimate concerns regarding reprisals. A recent study conducted by the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire showed that out of 2020 randomly selected elderly people living in the Boston metropolitan area 3.2% reported being abused. 65% of abuse cases were committed by one spouse against another, and only 23% involved an adult child abusing a parent. Partner violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, and both men and women may be the victims. Violence occurs in all socioeconomic, religious, ethnic and all age groups.

Several factors have been identified as contributing to abusive behaviors such as alcohol/drug abuse, psychopathology, learned abusive behaviors, stress related to caregiving, etc. There are several agencies in Larimer County that offer specific rehabilitation programs for perpetrators, many of whom are court ordered as a condition of probation or a deferred judgement, however, reliable information regarding the long term effectiveness of such therapy is not available. There are also certain medical, psychiatric and neurological disorders that can manifest in violent outbursts. In these situations consultation with a PCP and/or a psychiatrist is strongly advised as treatment options may be available.

If you are involved in an abusive relationship or suspect that an elder friend or relative is being mistreated there are many resources available in the community. If the situation is critical, or you're not certain, but think it may be, 911 is always an option. The Adult Protection Team at the Dept. of Social Services 498-6300 can provide information and referral as well as a quick response. Counselors with specialization in spousal abuse can provide intervention as well as referral for both victims and perpetrators. For a list of referrals please contact Mental Health Connections Therapist Referral System at 224-5209.

 

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Robert Larson
Robert Larson
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