The detection of elder mistreatment is emerging as a public health priority; however, abusive behaviors exercised by caregivers are little known and rarely detected among primary health care professionals.
This study aims to estimate the prevalence of risk of abuse against community-residing elderly with moderate to severe dependency whose caregivers are relatives. In addition, we aim to describe the association between such a risk and socio-demographic variables, cognitive and dependency state of the victim, and the scale of the caregiver’s anxiety, depression, and burden.
Cross-sectional study developed in 72 Primary Health Care teams from Barcelona, Spain. Participants were caregivers and their dependent care recipients (N = 829). Home interviews included the Caregiver Abuse Screen (CASE); self-reported abuse from care recipient; activities of daily living and cognitive state of the care recipient; anxiety and depression in caregivers and Caregiver Burden Scale. The relationship prior to the dependency, positive aspects of caregiving, and social support for the caregiver were also assessed. Multivariate analysis was performed using logistic regression with risk of abuse as dependent variable.
Caregivers were mainly women (82.8%) with a mean age of 63.3 years. Caregivers and care recipients lived in the same household in 87.4% of cases, and 86.6% had enjoyed a good previous relationship. Care recipients were women (65.6%), with a mean age of 84.2 years, and 64.2% had moderate to severe cognitive impairment. CASE demonstrated a prevalence of 33.4% (95% CI: 30.3-36.7) of abuse risk by the caregiver. Logistic regression showed as statistically significant: caregiver burden (OR = 2.75; 95% CI: 1.74-4.33), caregiver anxiety (OR = 2.06; 95% CI: 1.40-3.02), caregiver perception of aggressive behavior in the care recipient (OR = 7.24; 95% CI: 4.99-10.51), and a bad previous relationship (OR = 4.66; 95% CI: 1.25-17.4).
Prevalence of risk of abuse is high among family caregivers. Our study has found risk factors in family caregivers that are preventable to an extent, namely: anxiety and feelings of burden. It is essential to become aware of these risk factors and their causes to intervene and help primary as well secondary prevention.