Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse in Relationships

Abuse of older persons by relatives with psychiatric disorders
Compared to child abuse and domestic violence, elder abuse receives very little attention. Moreover, some elderly look after and sometimes are responsible for their relatives with severe mental illness. This study, which surveyed 243 community-residing older persons who have a relative with a psychiatric disorder, found that 15% had experienced physical abuse, 20% had experienced financial abuse, and 42% had experienced psychological abuse by a relative with a psychiatric disorder. The author concludes that elder abuse may be reduced by linking suspected and substantiated elder abusers with psychiatric disorders to mental health treatment. Moreover, older persons themselves might benefit from support and guidance regarding how to set limits in ways less likely to escalate conflict.


This research was conducted, with support from an Ortner Center student research grant, by Travis Labrum while he was a student in Penn’s Social Welfare PhD program. Dr. Labrum currently is an assistant professor in social work at the University of Wyoming.


The article was published in the Jan-Feb issue of the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics:

Labrum T. Factors related to abuse of older persons by relatives with psychiatric disorders. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2017;68:126-134.