a1 Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London, UK.
a2 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield, UK.
Large surveys of the general population's perceptions of the neglect and mistreatment of older people are few. This article provides evidence about the public's awareness of ‘elder abuse’ at a time of considerable media and political interest in the subject in many countries. It presents the findings of a survey of 1,000 adults' knowledge of the neglect and mistreatment of older people in the UK. Descriptive and multivariate analyses were used to examine: variations in the perception of the existence of neglect or mistreatment of older people, the perceived relative prevalence of knowing an older person who had been subject to such experiences, the type and place of such experiences and knowledge of sources of help in such circumstances. The key findings are that older people believed that there is less neglect and mistreatment of older people than younger people, that women perceived more than men, and that there were regional variations in these perceptions. One-quarter said they knew an older person who had experienced neglect or mistreatment, and such reports were most likely among the middle aged and women. The most frequently reported locations of abuse were care homes and hospitals, and the most commonly reported form was inadequate or insufficient personal care. Most people said they would contact social services or paid carers if they encountered neglect or mistreatment. The findings are discussed in the light of increased policy attention to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults, and the implications for research, practice and campaigning organisations are considered.
(Accepted April 27 2007)