Examining the ethical challenges in managing elder abuse: a systematic review

  • Afsaneh Saghafi
  • Fatemeh Bahramnezhad
  • Afsaneh Poormollamirza
  • Ali Dadgari
  • Elham Navab
Keywords: Elder abuse; Elder maltreatment; Ethics


Elder abuse is an increasingly intangible phenomenon that has created numerous ethical issues for care teams and caregivers. Although different studies have concentrated on various ethical issues regarding abuse, no study has arrived at a comprehensive conclusion. Therefore, the present study aimed to determine the existing ethical challenges in this context.

For this purpose, two researchers familiar with systematic search approach examined national and international journals on PubMed, Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), Scientific Information Database (SID) and similar databases between January and February 2017. They were able to find 116 articles that met the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and finally selected 15 articles based on the predesigned questions.

The findings were classified in five subtitles as follow: 1) the common definition of elder abuse, 2) a comprehensive legislation on elder abuse, 3) comprehensive ethical principles about elder abuse, 4) ethical considerations regarding patients without competency, and 5) reporting and sharing information about elder abuse. The study results revealed no common definition and no legislation about elder abuse, and also showed that health care providers’ observance of ethical principles depends on the ethical and legal conditions of the community.

Nowadays, elder abuse is a serious problem in many countries. Cultural and religious differences are the reasons for lack of a common definition and legislations, which comprises the biggest obstacle to protecting the rights of elderly people. It is clear that ethical principles should be respected as far as a person has competency. Furthermore, localization of clinical guidelines related to this issue leads to proper functioning of health care providers, especially nurses as the first line of treatment