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'Managing elder abuse in Ireland: The senior case worker's experience'

Date: Thursday 26th April 2012

Venue: Room C005, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, Health Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4


Seminar Abstract

Since the 1970s, elder abuse has become increasingly recognised and accepted as a global problem. As the population of older people continues to grow worldwide, many countries have begun to take measures to respond to and address this societal issue. In Ireland, public awareness and professional acknowledgment of elder abuse occurred relatively recently. However, significant progress has been made in offering a national response to the problem of elder abuse, with the introduction of a dedicated elder abuse service by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2007. This response included the development of an intervention service for the management of cases of elder abuse delivered by senior case workers.

The senior case workers investigate allegations of elder abuse and work with older people, their families and carers to resolve alleged cases of abuse within the framework of existing policy and legislation. Despite these developments there is still a dearth of high quality research on elder abuse both in Ireland and internationally. Elder abuse is a complex and sensitive issue, which to date lacks a sound theoretical base (Penhale 2006). A lack of agreement concerning definitions and causes makes it a challenging area to research. Accordingly, there is still little consensus on best practice in response to elder abuse. 

It is within this context that the NCPOP conducted research into the experiences of Senior Case Workers responsible for managing elder abuse in Ireland. This presentation will discuss the key findings of this research contained in the published report Managing Elder Abuse in Ireland: Senior case workers’ experiences. The aim of this research was to explore the experience of managing cases of elder abuse from the perspective of senior case workers. 

The objectives of the study were to:

• Explore senior case workers’ experiences in managing cases of elder abuse

• Examine current practices adopted by the senior case workers

• Examine the challenges and dilemmas faced by senior case workers in managing cases of elder abuse and how these are overcome

• Identify good practice in the management of elder abuse cases, as perceived by the senior case workers

• Ascertain priorities for future service development and provision for elder abuse, as perceived by the senior case workers

The findings of this study make an important contribution to understanding the complex phenomenon of elder abuse in Ireland by revealing the nuanced and multifaceted experiences of 18 Irish senior case workers responsible for managing cases of elder abuse.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Deirdre O’Donnell, is a researcher in National Centre for the Protection of Older People where she is working on a study of Senior Case Worker experiences of managing elder abuse in Ireland. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s in Philosophy and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Statistics from Trinity College Dublin. Her PHD research (TCD) investigated the relationship between biographical narrative and psychological and social well-being in later life through community-based research. This study was concerned with life course and cohort effects on later life well-being of disadvantage, associated with social and cultural themes of gender and social class.

Other research includes a study of ageing femininities in the Dublin Docklands (TCD), Women and Ambition in the Irish Civil Service (TCD) as well as developing a web-based digital repository for life histories and narrative data of older Irish men and women (TCD). Dr. O’Donnell lectures in Trinity College Dublin as well as University College Dublin. Her areas of teaching include gender and ageing, research design and methods, statistics, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and theories of social justice and feminism.