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Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem

Print version ISSN 0034-7167On-line version ISSN 1984-0446

Rev. Bras. Enferm. vol.70 no.4 Brasília July/Aug. 2017

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7167-2017-0114 

RESEARCH

Older adults abuse in three Brazilian cities

Violencia contra personas mayores en tres municipios brasileños

Rosalina Aparecida Partezani RodriguesI 

Edilene Araújo MonteiroII 

Ana Maria Ribeiro dos SantosIII 

Maria de Lourdes de Farias PontesII 

Jack Roberto Silva FhonI 

Alisson Fernandes BolinaI 

Fernanda Laporti SeredynskyjI 

Vanessa Costa AlmeidaI 

Suelen Borelli Lima GiacominiI 

Giovanna Partezani Cardoso DefinaI 

Luipa Michele SilvaI 

IUniversidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto College of Nursing. Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil.

IIUniversidade Federal da Paraíba, Department of Public Health Nursing. João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil.

IIIUniversidade Federal de Piauí, Health Sciences Center. Teresina, Piauí, Brazil.

ABSTRACT

Objective:

To analyze the police reports filed by older adults who suffered abuse in order to identify the socio-demographic characteristics of victims and aggressors, type of violence, location, as well as to compare rates in three Brazilian cities in the period from 2009 to 2013.

Method:

Ecological study, in which 2,612 police reports registered in Police Stations were analyzed. An instrument was used to obtain data from the victim, the aggressor and the type of violence.

Results:

Psychological abuse predominated and most cases occurred in the older adults own home. In the cities of Ribeirão Preto and João Pessoa, the older adults presented similar rates for both gender. Regarding the standardized rates, in João Pessoa, there was a rise of this type of abuse in the two first years, and later there was a certain stability. In the city of Teresina, there was an increase, also observed in the city of Ribeirão Preto in the three first years, followed by a decrease.

Conclusion:

Older adults abuse is a cultural phenomenon difficult to be reported by them, since it occurs in the family context.

Descriptors: Elderly; Elder Mistreatment; Domestic Violence; Geriatric Nursing; Violence

RESUMEN

Objetivo:

Analizar las denuncias policiales registradas por los ancianos que han sufrido violencia, con el fin de identificar las características sociodemográficas de las víctimas y de los autores, los diversos tipos de violencia y los lugares del suceso, así como también comparar el índice de violencia entre tres municipios brasileños durante el período comprendido entre 2009 y 2013.

Método:

Estudio ecológico, en el que se analizaron 2.612 denuncias registradas en Comisarías de Familia. Se utilizó un determinado instrumento para obtener datos de la víctima, del agresor y del tipo de violencia.

Resultados:

La violencia predominante es la psicológica y en la mayoría de los casos ocurre en la residencia de la persona mayor. En Ribeirão Preto y João Pessoa, el porcentaje de violencia contra los ancianos más jóvenes era igual entre ambos sexos. Comparando las tasas estándar, en João Pessoa el índice fue más alto en los dos primeros años, estabilizándose tras ese periodo. En Teresina y Ribeirão Preto el porcentaje aumentó en los tres primeros años y luego fue disminuyendo.

Conclusión:

La violencia es un fenómeno cultural de difícil notificación de parte de la persona mayor, ya que ocurre en el contexto familiar.

Descriptores: Persona Mayor; Malos Tratos a la Persona Mayor; Violencia Doméstica; Enfermería Geriátrica; Violencia

INTRODUCTION

The human aging process causes an inherent reduction of physical and mental capacity(1), which, along with prejudice, disrespect and social inequality, might contribute to the occurrence of serious acts of abuse against older adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO)(2) defines older adults abuse as "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person".

Older adult abuse is considered an epidemic, and the effects on physical and mental health have turned it into a public health problem, on account of its high dissemination and severe consequences, which include physical, moral and psycho-emotional trauma. These damages can lead to incapacity, dependence and even death(3-4).

Although it is an important social problem in all societies, it is often difficult to investigate, since the older adults are "afraid" of accusing their own family, often the main perpetrators. This type of abuse is also little investigated in researches, originating a gap in this area of knowledge, both in clinical practice and in studies for the implementation of public policies. Data shows that only one in four older adults who suffered abuse reported the case(5).

Another difficulty in investigating older adults abuse is the use of different terminologies to address the issue(6). In this study the terms "mistreatment" and "violence" will be used as synonyms of abuse, as defined by the following typology(7): physical - use of physical force to harm, inflict pain, lead to incapacity or death or to compel the older adult to do something they do not want to; psychological - verbal or gesture aggression aiming at terrorizing, humiliating, restricting freedom or isolating the elder from social interaction; sexual- sexual acts or games of homosexual or heterosexual nature, using older adults to obtain arousal, sexual intercourse or engage in erotic practices through grooming, physical abuse or threats; financial - improper unauthorized exploitation of financial or property assets, illegal or otherwise; neglect - refusal or omission to provide the necessary care for the older adult; self-neglect - conduct of the older adult who threatens their own health or safety by refusing to provide themselves with necessary care; and abandonment - absence or desertion by the ones responsible for providing care to older adult in need of protection, which could be the government, an institution or family.

Despite the relevance of the topic, studies addressing this subject are scarce in national and international literature. Some factors might explain this: the difficulty experienced by the older adult to express themselves in conflict situations; family and social pressures; and fragility of the barriers of conflict with the family, given that the older adult is more vulnerable as a result of the process of senescence and senility.

Although often veiled, this type of abuse is unacceptable and requires special attention, involving even the area of health care, where nurses play a key role in identifying signs and symptoms of abuse. It is important that these professionals work together with others and with the legal sphere, in order to fight this type of situation.

In view of the above and with the purpose of identifying older adults abuse in different regions of the country, this study presents an analysis of the reports filed by older adults in the Police Stations of three Brazilian cities. The purpose of this study was to analyze the reports of older adults who have suffered abuse in order to identify the socio-demographic characteristics of victims and aggressors, the type of violence, the location, as well as to compare the rates in three Brazilian cities in the period from 2009 to 2013 (historical series).

METHOD

Ethical aspects

The project was sent to the officers responsible for the Police Stations of Ribeirão Preto (in the state of São Paulo), Teresina (in the state of Piauí) and João Pessoa (in the state of Paraíba), in order to request writing authorization to access the information contained in the police reports from 2009 to 2013. After approval, the project was submitted to the Research Ethics Committee from USP Ribeirão Preto College of Nursing and approved. Exemption from the Consent Forms was requested, since the source of information was secondary.

Design, study setting and period

Study with ecological design, analyzing historical series, carried out through information from the Police reports filed in the period from 2009 to 2013 on the Police Stations of three Brazilian cities: one in the Southeastern Region (Ribeirão Preto) and two in the Northeast (Teresina and João Pessoa).

Ribeirão Preto is located in the heartland of the state of São Paulo, northwest of the capital. Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) indicate a population of 604,682 inhabitants in 2010, of which 12.61% are older adults(8). The second and third cities are located in the Northeast. Teresina, capital of the state of Piauí, has 814,230 inhabitants, 8.4% of them over 60 years old(8). In João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba, there are 723,515 inhabitants, of which 10.3% are older adults(8).

Data were collected in the second semester of 2014 and in the first semester of 2015, by undergraduate and graduate students and researchers, previously trained by the study coordinator.

Study population

The police reports filed between January 2009 and December 2013 in the three cities were analyzed. Out of the 2,612 reports, 1,177 were from Ribeirão Preto, 880 from João Pessoa, and 555 from Teresina.

In order to select the subjects who participated in the study, the following inclusion criteria were adopted: aged 60 and older, of both genders, residing in the cities investigated.

Study protocol

An instrument based on the information contained in the reports and the variables of interest was elaborated for the data collection. The content was previously validated by the researchers.

The instrument contains three sections. The first one consists of information about the older adults: gender (male and female), age (years) - classified by the age ranges of 60 to 69 years, 70 to 79 years and 80 or over; marital status (single, married, widowed, divorced and living with partner); Education level (illiterate, incomplete and complete primary education, incomplete and complete secondary education, incomplete and complete undergraduate education and graduate education); retired (yes or no); and location of the abuse (at home, in a public space or in a private place).

The second section contained data on the perpetrator: gender (male and female), age (years) - classified by the age ranges of 10 to 29, 30 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 or over; marital status (single, married, widowed, divorced and living with partner); level of education (illiterate, incomplete and complete primary education, incomplete and complete secondary education, incomplete and complete undergraduate education and postgraduate education); relative of the victim (yes or no); consumption of alcohol (yes or no) or drugs (yes or no); and living with the older adult (yes or no).

In the third section, the police reports were analyzed, classifying the abuse according to the typology: physical, psychological, sexual, financial, neglect, self-neglect and abandonment(7).

Analysis of results and statistics

The data were coded in a spreadsheet in the Microsoft Excel®, using double entry processing to verify internal consistency between the two entries. Subsequently, they were exported to the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), version 22.0.

In the first stage of the study, the absolute and relative frequency distributions of the variables that characterize the occurrence of violence, the type of abuse and the aggressor, were calculated based on the total of reports filed in the period from 2009 to 2013 in the three cities investigated. The study revealed a gap in socio-demographic information, that is, an incomplete record in the reports regarding data on the older adults and on the aggressors. Information not available in the reports was therefore considered absent.

In the second stage, rates by gender and age (x 10,000) were calculated for the three cities of the study, for the period from 2009 to 2013. Calculation used data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), available on the DATASUS website, regarding the population of the cities in the years of the study and in the five-year period of the reports(9). Exceptionally for 2013, the rate was estimated based on the years 2011 and 2012, as those were the closest years, and the rate of growth observed in this period was applied for each age group and gender.

Age-standardized rates (x 10,000) were estimated using the direct method of standardization. The standard population consisted of the sum of the populations of the three cities as in the 2010 census(8). Figures of the standardized rates by gender were elaborated for the three cities in the period from 2009 to 2013.

RESULTS

In the reports assessed, filed between 2009 and 2013, there was a predominance of older adults abuse in the age group of 60 to 69 years, female and in the "married" category in the three cities. In Ribeirão Preto, victims with "complete primary education" were more frequent, and in João Pessoa and Teresina "incomplete primary education" was highlighted. As for retirement, it was verified that most of the occurrences in Ribeirão Preto involved older adults who did not receive this benefit (Table 1).

Table 1 Characteristics of abuse against older adults in the three cities of the study according to the police report, in the period from 2009 to 2013, Brazil 

Variables Ribeirão Preto João Pessoa Teresina
n % n % n %
Age group
60 to 69 575 48.9 409 46.5 268 48.3
70 to 79 436 37.0 292 33.2 201 36.2
80 or over 162 13.8 176 20.0 84 15.1
Not informed 4 0.3 3 0.3 2 0.4
Gender
Male 515 43.8 321 36.5 189 34.1
Female 662 56.2 559 63.5 366 65.9
Marital status
Single 126 10.7 120 13.6 52 9.4
Married 461 39.2 300 34.1 213 38.4
Widowed 317 26.9 243 27.6 152 27.4
Divorced 169 14.4 110 12.5 41 7.4
Living with partner 43 3.7 16 1.8 5 0.9
Other 0 0.0 4 0.5 0 0.0
Not informed 61 5.2 87 9.9 92 16.6
Level of education
Illiterate 30 2.5 118 13.4 119 21.4
Incomplete primary education 169 14.4 235 26.7 187 33.7
Complete primary education 511 43.4 103 11.7 95 17.1
Incomplete secondary education 9 0.8 16 1.8 14 2.5
Complete secondary education 119 10.1 117 13.3 48 8.6
Incomplete undergraduate education 5 0.4 10 1.1 0 0.0
Complete undergraduate education 99 8.4 105 11.9 14 2.5
Graduate education 0 0.0 1 0.1 0 0.0
Not informed 235 20.0 175 19.9 78 14.1
Retired
Yes 319 27.1 487 55.3 388 69.9
No 691 58.7 250 28.4 119 21.4
Not informed 167 14.2 143 16.3 48 8.6

Regarding the data on the aggressors available in the reports, in the three cities male individuals between 30 and 49 years old predominated. In Ribeirão Preto, they were mostly single, with complete primary education, family members of the victim and did not live with the older adults. In João Pessoa, there were mostly married individuals, with complete secondary education, family members of the victim and who did not live with the older adult. And in Teresina, the aggressors were mostly single, with incomplete primary education, relatives and living with the victim. From the data collected, it was verified that the aggressors consumed alcohol and drugs, in a low proportion, in the three cities (Table 2).

Table 2 Characteristics of data on the aggressor in the three cities of the study according to the police report, in the period from 2009 to 2013, Brazil 

Variables Ribeirão Preto João Pessoa Teresina
n % n % n %
Age group
10 to 29 142 12.1 153 17.4 120 21.6
30 to 49 340 28.9 411 46.7 228 41.1
50 to 69 156 13.3 209 23.8 50 9.0
70 or over 2 0.2 4 0.5 0 0.0
Not informed 537 45.6 103 11.7 157 28.3
Gender
Male 757 64.3 474 53.9 419 75.5
Female 351 29.8 377 42.8 83 15.0
Not informed 69 5.9 29 3.3 53 9.5
Marital status
Single 306 26.0 286 32.5 276 49.7
Married 173 14.7 287 32.6 83 15.0
Widowed 22 1.9 26 3.0 3 0.5
Divorced 104 8.8 73 8.3 24 4.3
Living with partner 75 6.4 75 8.5 35 6.3
Other 0 0.0 9 1.0 2 0.4
Not informed 497 42.2 124 14.1 132 23.8
Level of education
Illiterate 2 0.2 17 1.9 13 2.3
Incomplete primary education 51 4.3 151 17.2 222 40.0
Complete primary education 140 11.9 112 12.7 68 11.9
Incomplete secondary education 8 0.7 37 4.2 25 4.5
Complete secondary education 70 5.9 200 22.7 37 6.7
Incomplete undergraduate education 6 0.5 51 5.8 9 1.6
Complete undergraduate education 51 4.3 115 13.1 16 2.9
Not informed 849 72.1 197 22.4 167 30.1
Family member of the victim
Yes 580 49.3 370 42.0 382 68.8
No 565 48.0 486 55.3 170 30.6
Not informed 32 2.7 24 2.7 3 0.5
Use of alcohol
Yes 93 7.9 78 8.9 110 19.8
No 1084 92.1 801 91.0 444 80.0
Not informed 0 0.0 1 0.1 1 0.2
Use of drugs
Yes 188 16.0 37 4.2 215 38.7
No 989 84.0 842 95.7 340 61.3
Not informed 0 0.0 1 0.1 0 0.0
Lives with the elder
Yes 409 34.7 219 24.9 335 60.4
No 728 61.9 647 73.5 219 39.5
Not informed 40 3.4 14 1.6 1 0.2

Regarding the location of the abuse, the study indicated predominance that most abuses happened in their residences, and the most recurrent type of abuse was psychological. However, there were references in the reports to more than one type of abuse (Table 3).

Table 3 Characteristics of the occurrence of older adults abuse according to the location and type of abuse in the three cities of the study, according to the police reports in the period from 2009 to 2013, Brazil 

Variables Ribeirão Preto João Pessoa Teresina
n % n % n %
Location of the abuse
Home 925 78.6 668 76.0 415 74.8
Public space 144 12.2 125 14.2 125 22.5
Private space 108 9.2 86 9.8 15 2.7
Type of abuse
Psychological 819 69.6 676 76.8 410 73.9
Physical 356 30.2 216 24.5 109 19.6
Financial 247 21.0 272 30.9 327 58.9
Neglect 28 2.4 40 4.5 32 5.8
Abandonment 26 2.2 28 3.2 17 3.1
Sexual 4 0.3 8 0.9 7 1.3
Self-neglect 4 0.3 0 0.0 0 0.0

In the cities of Ribeirão Preto and João Pessoa, younger older adults had similar rates of magnitude for both genders in all years of the historical period, except in 2013 in João Pessoa, when there was a greater number of younger older adults who were women in the reports. However, for those aged ≥ 70 years, the highest magnitudes were observed in males, in comparison to females. In the city of Teresina, female reports predominated in almost all ages (Table 4).

Table 4 Specific rates by gender, age standardized in the three cities in the study, from 2009 to 2013, Brazil 

Year City Age group Population Police reports Specific rates (x 10.000) Standardized rates (x 10.000)
M F M F M F M F
2009 Ribeirão Preto 60-69 16.655 21.689 33 42 19.81 19.36 29.16 19.44
70-79 8.805 13.087 42 30 47.70 22.92
≥ 80 3.678 6.763 11 9 29.91 13.31
João Pessoa 60-69 14.577 21.159 9 18 6.17 8.51 10.03 8.32
70-79 6.801 11.942 9 8 13.23 6.70
≥ 80 2.898 5.615 6 6 20.70 10.69
Teresina 69-69 14.059 18.579 4 9 2.85 4.84 3.56 6.86
70-79 6.114 9.528 4 8 6.54 8.40
≥ 80 2.213 3.856 0 4 0.0 10.37
2010 Ribeirão Preto 60-69 18.077 23.182 57 56 31.53 24.16 33.71 24.52
70-79 9.539 14.077 31 41 32.50 29.13
≥ 80 3.852 7.545 18 13 46.73 17.23
João Pessoa 60-69 17.165 23.935 34 64 19.81 26.74 24.89 26.97
70-79 8.166 13.854 25 40 30.61 28.87
≥ 80 3.671 7.844 13 19 35.41 24.22
Teresina 60-69 16.887 21.873 11 26 6.51 11.89 4.88 11.08
70-79 8.102 12.113 2 11 2.47 9.08
≥ 80 3.590 6.557 1 8 2.79 12.20
2011 Ribeirão Preto 60-69 18.306 23.475 73 100 39.88 42.60 46.40 42.07
70-79 9.660 14.255 63 66 65.22 46.30
≥ 80 3.901 7.641 13 25 33.32 32.72
João Pessoa 60-69 17.394 24.254 32 38 18.40 15.67 22.54 18.80
70-79 14.038 10.038 25 31 30.21 22.08
≥ 80 7.948 7.948 9 18 24.19 22.65
Teresina 60-69 17.056 22.092 23 30 13.48 13.58 17.02 17.18
70-79 8.183 12.234 18 29 22.00 23.70
≥ 80 3.626 6.622 8 11 22.06 16.61
2012 Ribeirão Preto 60-69 18.527 23.760 52 87 28.07 36.62 33.68 37.17
70-79 9.777 14.427 39 66 39.89 45.75
≥ 80 3.948 7.733 18 18 45.59 23.28
João Pessoa 60-69 17.615 24.562 25 53 14.19 21.58 18.51 24.34
70-79 8.380 14.217 18 40 21.48 28.14
≥ 80 3.767 8.050 12 21 31.86 26.09
Teresina 60-69 17.219 22.303 20 65 11.62 29.14 13.71 25.03
70-79 8.261 12.351 9 32 10.89 25.91
≥ 80 3.661 6.686 11 7 30.05 10.47
2013 Ribeirão Preto 60-69 18.751 24.048 27 48 14.40 19.96 19.50 22.78
70-79 9.895 14.601 25 33 25.26 22.60
≥ 80 3.996 7.826 12 25 30.03 31.94
João Pessoa 60-69 17.839 24.874 53 83 37.71 44.45 16.82 24.69
70-79 8.486 14.398 32 64 47.19 66.23
≥ 80 3.815 8.153 18 54 34.17 42.38
Teresina 60-69 17.384 22.516 25 55 14.38 24.43 26.36 30.09
70-79 8.340 12.469 39 49 46.76 39.30
≥ 80 6.751 6.751 13 21 35.17 31.11

Note: M - Male; F - Female.

Regarding the standardized rates (according to Table 4 and Figure 1), both men and women observed in João Pessoa, showed a magnitude in the first two years of the historical series and, in subsequent years, a certain stability. In Teresina, there was a rise in the magnitude of the rates for both genders in the historical series. On the other hand, in Ribeirão Preto, there was a rise in the magnitude of both genders (2009 to 2011), despite a sharp decrease in the years 2012 and 2013.

Figure 1 Standardized rates of abuse against older adults according to gender and the cities in the study, in historical series - 2009 to 2013, Brazil 

DISCUSSION

This study was conducted in three Brazilian cities, representing an important analysis for a better understanding of the research topic. Regarding the older adults victims of abuse, the results showed a predominant age of 60 to 69 years, mostly in women who were married. This result is consistent with other studies, such as one carried out in seven European countries, that identified male as under-recognized and under-reported, due to traditional and sexist social and cultural norms abuse that prevent older men for reporting abuse. The authors emphasize that increased age, financial strain and greater social support seemed linked with a decreased probability of being abused(10). According to Lachs and Pillemer(11), an aggressor and an older adult sharing the living environment is a major risk factor for abuse.

Acierno et al.(12) and Dong et al.(13) studies also showed no significance in relation to age. Regard the prevalence of females, these data are consistent with another study(14).

As for the aggressors, those were mostly adult, men and family members of the victim. However, only Teresina presented cases in which the aggressor lived with the elderly. Although Brazilian society is evolving, it remains sexist and, in this case, being female, older and more fragile increases the risk of suffering abuse. Residing with the victim and the dependency on the victim were the most frequent risk factors found in the study by Simone et al.(15).

A multicenter study conducted in Canada, Colombia, Brazil, and Albania with 1,995 older adults aged 65 years and over concluded that 0.63-0.85% of the participants suffered physical abuse, and 3.2-23, 5% suffered psychological abuse, perpetrated by relatives and by the partner, mostly due to intergenerational conflicts arising from care, which may explain this negative behavior against the older adult(16). Even though family members are the main supporters, they are also the most common perpetrators of abuse(14).

In this study, the use of alcohol and drugs by the aggressors was highlighted, which indicates that the use of illicit substances damages their health and brings consequences to their relatives, and therefore it is an important risk factor in the analysis of abuse. Young's study(17) demonstrated that having a caregiver with mental illnesses, such as depression, or lacking social support, also increases this risk.

As shown in Tables 1 and 2, important socio-demographic data on older adults and the aggressors were not complete, but recording this information gap was considered essential for the document analysis. In research on violence, several aspects are neglected, for example: lack of standardized tools for registration, incomplete data entry, difficulty for the older adult to tell what happened or even to go to the Police Station, fear of being judged by the aggressor, absence of social follow-up after the recording of the occurrence and, also, possible complications resulting from the abuse.

The records analyzed contained more than one type of abuse per older adult, but psychological abuse, perpetrated in their own home, was predominant. This allows a better understanding of the family relationships and the reasons for this abuse, which can contribute to the development of intervention projects for the older adults family members.

In Ribeirão Preto, the second most frequent type of abuse was physical, and in the two cities of the Northeast region, it was financial. This finding is relevant, since these two capitals have low-income population and most of the older adults receive social benefits and suffer this type of problem, even from members of their families.

A North American study has shown that people experience different types of abuse, and the aggressor can also perpetrate abuses of different natures against the same person(18). Physical violence, also considered one of the most prevalent in the literature(17), is alarming due to some of its consequences, such as burns, fractures and bruises.

It is worth noting that older adults(19) may or may not suffer physical violence. Although some victims may survive this type of abuse at first, there are situations of death due to skin lesions, dehydration or even lack of basic health care. Therefore, in the area of health care, nurses need to be alert to this situation to identify signs of aggression, provide care for these patients and direct them to a more effective and dignified care.

Research on this topic reports that psychological abuse is the most frequent, as in a Swiss study(15), in which this kind of abuse accounted for 47% of cases, followed by financial (35%) and physical abuse (30%). However, in Europe, the prevalence of psychological abuse was of 6.9-35.6%; financial abuse prevalence was of 1.7 to 9.6%; and physical abuse prevalence was of 0.3-2%(20). In the United States, verbal abuse reached 9%, financial abuse reached 3.4%, and physical abuse reached 0.2%(21).

In Mexico, a study with a sample of 8,894 older adults reported abuse in the twelve months prior to the study, highlighting verbal abuse (62.9%), followed by physical aggression (32.3%), especially against women (18.7%). Although research indicates a predominance of psychological and/or verbal abuse, the evaluation of the other types depends on more refined instruments(22).

In a systematic review of the literature, Dong(23) found a variety of studies on the subject and identified the prevalence of some forms of abuse against the older adult depending on the population, location, definition and method of research. In North and South America, the prevalence of older adults abuse ranged from 10% in older adults with good cognitive function to 47.3% in older adults with dementia. In Europe, the prevalence varied from 2.2% in Ireland to 61.1% in Croatia. In Asia, the prevalence reached 36.2% in China and 14.0% in India. Only two studies conducted in Africa found a prevalence ranging from 30% to 43.7%.

It should be noted, however, that the prevalence of some forms of older adults abuse differs from country to country. In addition, authors use different investigative methodologies, altering the place of occurrence of the abuse, the time of evaluation and/or follow-up, the type of instrument used, the degree of dependence of the older adult in relation to the aggressor and, above all, the approach used to address this theme.

Violence, considered a serious social problem, has victimized (through physical and psychological abuse) people who are more fragile, such as the older adult, as well as individuals with different problems who depend on others to provide care in their daily activities. It is also important to note that the studies carried out so far lack precise assessment tools that allow the apprehension of abuse risk factors in order to develop intervention programs(23).

A study investigated 3,159 Chinese older adults living in an American community and concluded that elder abuse was 15% - 61.55% against women; 71.2% against married women; and 23.4% against those with poor health conditions, of whom 9.1% felt uncomfortable to live with the aggressor. The authors found that the association between health status and abuse indicates that having a poor health condition increases the risk of suffering abuse(13). Another study also demonstrated the association between abuse and health status, addressing issues such as depression, being older and female, social isolation, history of family violence, dependence on the aggressor and caregiver burnout(24).

In the present study, the health conditions of the older adults victims of abuse was not assessed, although it is possible to infer that the younger older adults are able to go to the police station and report the occurrences and, therefore, probably had a good or regular health condition.

Older adults abuse occurred in the three cities, but in order to analyze the standard orders of magnitude it is necessary to mention some aspects of the Police Stations where the occurrences were recorded. In Ribeirão Preto, as seen in Table 4 and Figure 1, there was a rise in the number of reports in the first years and, from 2011 to 2013, there was a decrease. In the other cities in the Northeast region, rates increased and remained the same in this period.

The police station of Ribeirão Preto was implemented in 2009 and remained in the same address until 2015. In João Pessoa, it was inaugurated in 2009, initially in the same building as the Women's and Homophobic Police Stations, and later in 2010, transferred to their own building, where it opens during business hours. In Teresina, the Office for Security and Protection of the Elderly (DSPI) was inaugurated in 2005 and changed its address in 2010. The creation and operation of the police stations were widely publicized in the media in each municipality. Therefore, some hypotheses can be considered in the analysis of the rates, such as the lack of accessibility of the older adults to the police station or the possibility of the report being evaluated and solved by the investigator at the place of the occurrence, without filing a report.

It is possible to observe, in this study and in the national and international literature, that abuse has been discussed as a problem that is within social, cultural, gender and age spheres, and is also related to the most vulnerable people such as the older adults. For this reason, health professionals should be prepared to identify signs of abuse when providing care for the older adult, since they are most of times "afraid" to report it, because the abuse occurs in their own home and they live with the aggressor, who is commonly some family member. This situation can make their real needs go unnoticed and unattended by the health care team.

It is also important to mention the scarcity of specific health services to meet this demand and the lack of preparation of the professionals to identify the causes of abuse(25). Estimates indicate that one in ten older adults suffers some type of abuse, but only a few report it in specialized services(26).

Study limitations

The historical series for evaluation of older adult abuse in the five-year period (2009-2013) revealed some difficulties for recording this type of occurrence in the three cities investigated: different instruments; incomplete and manual records; lack of information about the health problems of the victims; the relationship between the victim and the aggressor; the incomplete filling of the data on the victim and the aggressor; and the lack of continuous training of the employees. It should be noted that this historical series must continue to be developed so that this social problem can be analyzed in detail.

Contribution to the area of nursing, health or public policy

This research presents important data about this type of abuse in different Brazilian regions, which can subsidize the elaboration of guidelines for health professionals who, articulated through the legal sphere, may propose interventions capable of preventing older adults' abuse.

CONCLUSION

According to the study conducted, older adults abuse occurred in the three cities, notably psychological abuse against women and younger older adults in the first age group, by a male aggressor, member of the family, who lives or does not live with the older adult.

The older adult's understanding of the abuse is associated with the cultural and private aspects of the family, considered by them as the most important bond, which may contribute to the under-report of the cases. The data found raise important reflections on work with intergenerational families, social and health determinants, the need to implement public policies committed to the cause, as well as on the importance of enabling researchers to identify the conditions experienced by the older adult, so that human rights can be ensured.

In this perspective, the articulation between researchers and social services, such as the Municipal Support Services, is fundamental to plan support programs for caregiving families and for victims of illegal substance use, such as alcohol and drugs. It is also necessary to develop research with the police and the stations to standardize instruments for recording occurrences and create a database that allows a better approach to social problem that affects the most vulnerable, so that it is possible to identify the risk factors and minimize them.

The use of a standardized and computerized instrument in the country will certainly provide a more detailed evaluation of abuse to aid the work of professionals in the areas of Social Services, Health and Law Enforcement. It is a problem that exists in all spaces, so nurses, as professionals and citizens concerned about elder abuse, must work hard to deal with this serious social issue.

FUNDING

This study was developed within the Universal project "Older adults abuse in three Brazilian cities", funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (No. 458701/2014-9).

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Received: February 15, 2017; Accepted: March 04, 2017

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR Rosalina Aparecida Partezani Rodrigues Email: rosalina@eerp.usp.br

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