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Native American Elder Abuse

NCJ Number
Dave Baldridge Ph.D.; Arnold S. Brown Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2000
13 pages
This overview of elder abuse among Native Americans discusses the definitions of elder abuse, its indicators, reporting and treatment resources, abuser and victim profiles, tribal awareness and the handling of elder abuse, and resources that can address the problem.
In October 1996, the Navajo Tribal Council enacted the Dine Elder Protection Act. Its intent is "to continue the traditional respect which members of the Navajo Nation have for Dine elders." In this bill, abuse is defined as assault; threats; coercion; unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruelty; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; intimidation; exploitation; abandonment; and breach of fiduciary duty. In a survey of Navajo elders regarding indicators of elderly abuse, some of the factors mentioned were the number of hours of care per day that families provide older members; mental conditions of the elderly receiving care; sudden dependency by the elderly family member; the extent to which providing care created a family crisis; and the elderly person's income level. Typical abusers are family members upon whom the elderly become dependent for care. Those elderly persons most likely to be abused are those who have become suddenly dependent and those who have become mentally impaired. Victims have tended to be women, those socially isolated, and those living with primary caregivers. Awareness of elderly abuse varies from tribe to tribe; however, the traditional respect for the elderly in Native American culture facilitates awareness of such abuse and a response to it. In discussing the resources for addressing this issue among Native Americans, the paper describes the role of the National Indian Council on Aging and conferences and workshops on elder abuse being offered for Native American communities. 11 references, 11 suggested readings, and 15 organizational resources