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March 28, 1980

The elderly: newest victims of familial abuse

JAMA. 1980;243(12):1221-1225. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300380007004

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Abuse of the elderly, particularly by their children or grandchildren, may well be as severe a problem as child abuse, a University of Maryland study suggests.

But unlike the problem of battered spouses or abused children, the plight of the "battered parent" has gone largely unrecognized, says Marilyn R. Block, a researcher at the University of Maryland's Center on Aging who recently completed a study of such abuse in the state and the Washington, DC, area.

In some ways abuse of the elderly is more difficult to identify than spouse or child maltreatment, Ms Block says, because older people tend to be less visible and more isolated from the public than most women and children.

"Abuse of the elderly is at the stage that child abuse was at 20 years ago. People are horrified at the notion," says Block.

Block and co-researcher Jan D. Sinott discussed the findings of their